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THE TALES OF CHEKHOV
THE LADY WITH THE DOG
AND OTHER STORIES
THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
NEW YORK • BOSTON • CHICAGO • DALLAS
ATLANTA • SAN FRANCISCO
MACMILLAN & CO., Limited
LONDON • BOMBAY • CALCUTTA
THE MACMILLAN CO. OF CANADA, Ltd.
LADY WITH THE DOG
AND OTHER STORIES
FROM THE RUSSIAN
By CONSTANCE GARNETT
THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
All rights reserved
By the MACMILLAN COMPANY
Set up and electrotj-ped. Published, Aprils 1917,
The Lady with the Dog 3
A Doctor's Visit . , 31
An Upheaval 51
The Head of the Family 95
The Black Monk 103
An Anonymous Story 177
The Husband 293
THE TALES OF CHEKHOV
THE LADY WITH THE DOG
It was said that a new person had appeared on
the sea-frcnt: a lady with a little dog. Dmitri
Dmitritch Gurov, who had by then been a tort-
night at Yalta, and so was fairly at home there,
had begun to take an interest in new arrivals.
Sitting in Verney's pavilion, he saw, walking on the
sea-front, a fair-haired younjr lady of medium
height, wearing a beret \ a white Pomeranian dog
was running behind her.
And afterwards he met her in the public gardens
and in the square several times a day. She was
walking alone, always wearing the same beret^ and
always with the same white dog; no one knew who
she was, and every one called her simply ^' the lady
wich the dog."
" If she is here alone without a husband or
friends, it wouldn't be amiss to make her ac-
quaintance,'* Gurov reflected.
He was under forty, but he had a daughter
already twelve years old, and two sons at school.
He had been married young, when he was a student
in his second year, and by now his wife seemed
4 The Tales of Chekhov
half as old again as he. She was a tall, erect
woman witn dark eyebrows, staid and dignified,
and, as she said of herself, intellectual. She read
a great deal, used phonetic spelling, called her hus-
band, not Dmitri, but Dimitri, and he secretly con-
sidered her unintelligent, narrow, inelegant, was
afraid of her, and did not like to be at home. He
had begun being unfaithful to her long ago — had
been untaithfui to her often, and, probably on that
account, almost always spoke ill of women, and
when they were talked about in his presence, used
to call them " the lower race."
It seemed to him that he had been so schooled
by bitter experience that he might call them what
he liked, and yet he could not get on for two days
together without *' the lower race." In the society
of men he was bored and not himself, with them
he was cold and uncommunicative; but when he was
in the company of women he felt free, and knew
what to say to them and how to behave; and he
was at ease with them even when he was silent.
In his appearance, in his character, in his whole
nature, there was something attractive and elusive
which allured women and disposed them in his
favour; he knew that, and some force seemed to
draw him, too, to them.
Experience often repeated, truly bitter experience,
had taught him long ago tnat with decent people,
especially Moscow people — always slow to move
and Irresolute — every intimacy, which at first so
agreeably diversifies life and appears a light and
charming adventure, inevitably grows into a regular
The Lady with the Dog 5
problem of extreme intricacy, and in the long run
the situation becomes unbearable. But at every
fresh meeting with an interesting woman this experi-
ence seemed to slip out of his memory, and he was
eager for life, and everything: seemed simple and
One evening he was dining in the gardens, and
the lady in the heret came up slowly to take the
next table. Her expression, her gait, her dress,
and the way she did her hair told him that she was
a lady, that she was married, that she was in Yalta
for the ^rst time and alone, and that she was dull
there. . . . The stories told of the immorality in
such places as Yalta are to a great extent untrue;
he despised them, and knew that such stories were
for the most part made up by persons who would
themselves have been glad to sin if they had been
able; but when the lady sat down at the next table
three paces from him, he remembered these tales
of easy conquests, of trips to the mountains, and
the tempting thought of a swift, fleeting love affair,
ft romance with an unknown woman, whose name
he did not know, suddenly took possession of
He beckoned coaxingly to the Pomeranian, and
when the dog came up to him he shook his finger
at it. The Pomeranian growled: Gurov shook his
finger at it again.
The lady looked at him and at once dropped her
" He doesn't bite," she said, and blushed.
" May I give him a bone? " he asked; and when
6 * The Tales of Chekhov
she nodded he asked courteously, " Have you been
long In Yalta? "
" Five days."
" And I have already dragged out a fortnight
There was a brief silence.
*' Time goes fast, and yet it is so dull here ! "
she said, not looking at him.
*' That's only the fashion to say It is dull here.
A provincial will live in Belyov or Zhidra and not
be dull, and when he comes here it's ' Oh, the dul-
ness ! Oh, the dust ! ' One would think he came
She laughed. Then both continued eating in
silence, like strangers, but after dinner they walked
side by side; and there sprang up between them the
light jesting conversation of people who are free
and satisfied, to whom it does not matter where
they go or what they talk about. They walked and
talked of the strange light on the sea : the water was
of a soft warm lilac hue, and there was a golden
streak from the moon upon it. They talked of how
sultry It was after a hot day. Gurov told her that
he came from Moscow, that he had taken his degree
In Arts, but had a post in a bank; that he had trained
as an opera-singer, but had given it up, that he
owned two houses In Moscow. . . . And from her
he learnt that she had grown up In Petersburg, but
had lived In S since her marriage two years
before, that she was staying another month in
Yalta, and that her husband, who needed a holiday
too, might perhaps come and fetch her. She was
The Lady with the Dog 7
not sure whether her husband had a post in a Crown
Department or under the Provincial Council — and
was amused by her own ignorance. And Gurov
learnt, too, that she was called Anna Sergeyevna.
Afterwards he thought about her in his room at
the hotel — thought she would certainly meet him
next day; it would be sure to happen. As he got
Into bed he thought how lately she had been a girl
at school, doing lessons like his own daughter; he
recalled the diffidence, the angularity, that was still
manifest in her laugh and her manner of talking with
a stranger. This must have been the first time in
her life she had been alone In surroundings in which
she was followed, looked at, and spoken to merely
from a secret motive which she could hardly fail to
guess. He recalled her slender, delicate neck, her
lovely grey eyes.
" There's something pathetic about her, anyway,"
he thought, and fell asleep.
A week had passed since they had made ac-
quaintance. It was a holiday. It was sultry In-
doors, while in the street the wind whirled the dust
round and round, and blew people's hats off. It
was a thirsty day, and Gurov often went into the
pavilion, and pressed Anna Sergeyevna to have
syrup and water or an ice. One did not know what
to do with oneself.
In the evening when the wind had dropped a
little, they went out on the groyne to see the steamer
8 The Tales of Chekhov
come in. There were a great many people walking
about the harbour; they had gathered to welcome
some one, bringing bouquets. And two peculiari-
ties of a well-dressed Yalta crowd were very con-
spicuous: the elderly ladies were dressed like young
ones, and there were great numbers of generals.
Owing to the roughness of the sea, the steamer
arrived late, after the sun had set, and it was a
long time turning about before it reached the groyne.
Anna Sergeyevna looked through her lorgnette at
the steamer and the passengers as though looking
for acquaintances, and when she turned to Gurov
her eyes were shining. She talked a great deal and
asked disconnected questions, forgetting next mo-
ment what she had asked; then she dropped her
lorgnette in the crush.
The festive crowd began to disperse; it was too
dark to see people's faces. The wind had com-
pletely dropped, but Gurov and Anna Sergeyevna
still stood as though waiting to see some one else
come from the steamer. Anna Sergeyevna was
silent now, and sniffed the flowers without looking
" The weather is better this evening," he said.
"Where shall we go now? Shall we drive some-
She made no answer.
Then he looked at her intently, and all at once
put his arm round her and kissed her on the lips,
and breathed In the moisture and the fragrance of
the flowers; and he immediately looked round him,
anxiously wondering whether any one had seen them.
The Lady with the Dog 9
*' Let us go to your hotel," he said softly. And
both walked quickly.
The room was close and smelt of the scent she
had bought at the Japanese shop. Gurov looked
at her and thought: "What different people one
meets In the world ! " FrOiTi the past he preserved
memories of careless, good-natured women, who
loved cheerfully and were grateful to him for the
happiness he gave them, however brief It might be ;
and of women like his wife who loved without any
genuine feeling, with superfluous phrases, affect-
edly, hysterically, with an expression that suggested
that It was not love nor passion, but something
more significant; and of two or three others, very
beautiful, cold women, on whose faces he had caught
a glimpse of a rapacious expression — an obstinate
desire to snatch from life more than it could give,
and these were capricious, unreflecting, domineering,
unintelligent women not In their first youth, and
when Gurov grew cold to them their beauty excited
his hatred, and the lace on their linen seemed to
him like scales.
But in this case there was still the diffidence, the
angularity of inexperienced youth, an awkward
feeling; and there was a sense of consternation as
though some one had suddenly knocked at the door.
The attitude of Anna Sergeyevna — *' the lady with
the dog '* — to what had happened was somehow
peculiar, very grave, as though it were her fall —
so It seemed, and It was strange and Inappropriate.
Her face dropped and faded, and on both sides of
it her long hair hung down mournfully; she mused
10 The Tales of Chekhov
in a dejected attitude like " the woman who was a
sinner " in an old-fashioned picture.
" It's wrong," she said. " You will be the first
to despise me now.'*
There was a water-melon on the table. Gurov
cut himself a slice and began eating It without haste.
There followed at least half an hour of silence.
Anna Sergeyevna was touching; there '\ras about
her the purity of a good, simple woman who had
seen little of life. The solitary candle burning on
the table threw a faint light on her face, yet It was
clear that she was very unhappy.
"How could 1 despise you?" asked Gurov.
" You don't know what you are saying."
" God forgive me," she said, and her eyes filled
with tears. " It's awful."
*' You seem to feel you need to be forgiven."
"Forgiven? No. I am a bad, low woman; I
de9pise myself and don't attempt to justify myself.
It's not my husband but myself I have deceived.
And not only just now; I have been deceiving myself
for a long time. My husband may be a good,
honest man, but he Is a flunkey! I don't know
what he does there, what his work is, but I know
he Is a flunkey ! I was twenty when I was married
to him. I have been tormented by curiosity; I
wanted something better. ' There must be a dif-
ferent sort of life,' I said to myself. I wanted to
live! To live, to Hvel ... I was fired by curi-
osity . . . you don't understand It, but, I swear to
God, I could not control myself; something hap-
pened to me : I could not be restrained. I told my
The Lady with the Dog ii
husband I was ill, and came here. . . . And here
I have been walking about as though 1 were dazed,
like a mad creature; . . . and now I have become
a vulgar, contemptible woman whom any one may
Gurov felt bored already, listening to her. He
was irritated by the naive tone, by this remorse, so
unexpected and inopportune; but for the tears in
her eyes, he might have thought she w^as jesting or
playing a part.
" I don't understand," he said softly. " What
Is It you want? "
She hid her face on his breast and pressed close
" Believe me, believe me, I beseech you . . ."
she said. " I love a pure, honest life, and sin Is
loathsome to me. I don't know what I am doing.
Simple people say: * The Evil One has beguiled
me.' And I may say of myself now that the Evil
One has beguiled me."
"Hush, hush! . . ." he muttered.
He looked at her fixed, scared eyes, kissed her,
talked softly and affectionately, and by decrrees she
was comforted, and her gaiety returned; they both
Afterwards when they went out there was not
a soul on the sea-front. The town with its cypresses
had quite a deathlike air, but the sea still broke
noisily on the shore; a single barge was rocking
on the waves, and a lantern was blinking sleepily
They found a cab and drove to Orcanda.
12 The Tales of Chekhov
" I found out your surname In the hall just now:
It was written on the board — Von Diderits," said
Gurov. *' Is your husband a German? "
"No; I believe his grandfather was a German,
but he Is an Orthodox Russian himself."
At Oreanda they sat on a seat not far from the
church, looked down at the sea, and were silent.
Yalta was hardly visible through the morning mist;
white clouds stood motionless on the mountain-tops.
The leaves did not stir on the trees, grasshoppers
chirruped, and the monotonous hollow sound of
the sea rising up from below, spoke of the peace, of
the eternal sleep awaiting us. So it must have
sounded when there was no Yalta, no Oreanda here;
so It sounds now, and It will sound as Indifferently
and monotonously when we are all no more. And
in this constancy, in this complete indifference to
the life and death of each of us, there lies hid, per-
haps, a pledge of our eternal salvation, of the un-
ceasing movement of life upon earth, of unceasing
progress towards nerfection. Sittmg beside a
young woman who in the dawm seemed so lovely,
soothed and spellbound In these magical surround-
ings — the sea, mountains, clouds, the opeii sky —
Gurov thought how In reality everything is beautiful
In this world when one reflects : everything except
what we think or do ourselves when we torget our
human dignity and the higher aims of our exist-
A man walked up to them — probably a keeper —
looked at them and walked away. And this detail
seemed mysterious and beautiful, too. lliey saw
The Lady with the Dog 13
a steamer come from Theodosia, with Its lights out
in the glow of dawn.
" There Is dew on the grass," said Anna Sergey-
evna, after a silence.
'' Yes. It's time to go home."
They went back to the town.
Then they met every day at twelve o'clock on the
sea-front, lunched and dined together, went for
walks, admired the sea. She complained that she
slept badly, that her heart throbbed violently; asked
the same questions, troubled now by jealousy and
now by the fear that he did not respect her suffi-
ciently. And often In the s»quare or gardens, when
there was no one near them, he suddenly drew her
to him and kissed her passionately. Complete Idle-
ness, these kisses In broad daylight while he looked
round In dread of some one's seeing them, the heat,
the smell of the sea, and the continual passing to
and fro before him of Idle, well-dressed, well-fed
people, made a new man of him; he told Anna Ser-
geyevna how beautiful she was, how fascinating.
He was Impatiently passionate, he would not move
a step away from her, while she was often pensive
and continually urged him to confess that he did not
respect her, did not love her In the least, and thought
of her as nothing but a common woman. Rather
late almost every evening they drove somewhere out
of town, to Oreanda or to the waterfall; and the ex-
pedition was always a success, the scenery invariably
impressed them as grand and beautiful.
They were expecting her husband to come, but a
letter came from him, saying that there was some-
14 The Tales of Chekhov
thing wrong with his eyes, and he entreated his wife
to come home as quickly i^s possible. /\nn? Ser-
geyevi^a made haste to go.
'' It's a good thing 1 am going away," she said to
Gurov. " It's the finger o^ destiny! "
She vient by coach and he went with her. They
were driving the whole day. When she had got
into a compartment of the express, and when the
second bell had rung, she said:
" Let me look at you once more . . . look at you
once again. That's right."
She did not shed tears, but was so sad that she
seemed ill, and her face was quivering.
" I shall remember you . . . think of you," she
said. *' God be with you ; be happy. Don't remem-
ber evil against me. We are parting forever — it
must be so, for we ought never to have met. Well,
God be with you.'^
The train moved off rapidly, its lights soon van-
ished from sight, and a minute later there was no
sound of it, as though everything had conspired to-
gether to end as quickly as possible that sweet de-
lirium, that madness. Left alone on the platform,
and gazing into the dark distance, Gurov listened to
the chirrup of the grasshoppers and the hum of the
telegraph wires, feeling as though he had only just
waked up. And he thought, musing, that there had
been another episode or adventure in his life, and it,
too, was at an end, and nothing was left of it but a
memory. . . . He was moved, sad, and conscious of
a slight remorse. This young woman whom he
would never meet again had not been happy with
The Lady with the Dog 15
him; he was genuinely warm and affectionate with
her, but yet In his manner, his tone, and his caresses
there had been a shade of light Irony, the coarse con-
descension of a happy man who was, besides, almost
twice her age. All the time she had called him kind,
exceptional, lofty; obviously he had seemed to her
different from what he really was, so he had uninten-
tionally deceived her. . . .
Here at the station w^as already a scent of autumn;
It was a cold evening.
'' It's time for me to go north," thought Gurov as
he left the platform. " High time! "
At home in Moscow everything was in Its winter
routine; the stoves were heated, and In the morning
It was still dark when the children were having break-
fast and getting ready for school, and the nurse
would light the lamp for a short time. The frosts
had begun already. When the first snow has fallen,
on the first day of sledge-driving it is pleasant to see
the white earth, the white roofs, to draw soft, de-
licious breath, and the season brings back the days
of one's youth. The old limes and birches, white
with hoar-frost, have a good-natured expression;
they are nearer to one's heart than cypresses and
palms, and near them one doesn't want to be think-
ing of the sea and the mountains.
Gurov was Moscow born ; he arrived in Moscow
on a fine frosty day, and when he put on his fur
coat and warm gloves, and walked along Petrovka,
l6 The Tales of Chekhov
and when on Saturday evening he heard the ringing
of the bells, his recent trip and the places he had seen
lost all charm for him. Little by little he became
absorbed in Moscow life, greedily read three news-
papers a day, and declared he did not read the Mos-
cow papers on principle ! He already felt a longing
to go to restaurants, clubs, dinner-parties, anniver-
sary celebrations, and he felt flattered at entertaining
distinguished lawyers and artists, and at playing
cards with a professor at the doctors' club. He
could already eat a whole plateful of salt fish and
cabbage. . . .
In another month, he fancied, the Image of Anna
Sergeyevna would be shrouded In a mist in his mem-
ory, and only from time to time would visit him In
his dreams with a touching smile as others did. But
more than a month passed, real winter had come,
and everything was still clear in his memory as
though he had parted with Anna Sergeyevna only
the day before. And his memories glowed more
and more vividly. When In the evening stillness he
heard from his study the voices of his children, pre-
paring their lessons, or when he listened to a song
or the organ at the restaurant, or the storm howled
in the chimney, suddenly everything would rise up
In his memory: what had happened on the groyne,
and the early morning with the mist on the moun-
tains, and the steamer coming from Theodosia, and
the kisses. He would pace a long time about his
room, remembering It all and smiling; then his mem-
ories passed Into dreams, and In his fancy the past
was mingled with what was to come. Anna Sergey-
The Lady with the Dog 17
evnq did not visit him in dreams, but followed him
about everywhere like a shadow and haunted him.
When he shut his eyes he saw her as though she were
living before him, and she seemed to him lovelier,
younger, tenderer than she was; and he imagined
himself finer than he had been in Yalta. In the
evenings she peeped out at him from the bookcase,
from the fireplace, from the corner — he heard her
breathing, the caressing rustle of her dress. In the
street he watched the women, looking for some one
He was tormented by an Intense desire to confide
his memories to some one. But in his home it was
impossible to talk of his love, and he had no one out-
side; he could not talk to his tenants nor to any one
at the bank. And what had he to talk of ? Had he
been in love, then? Had there been anything beau-
tiful, poetical, or edifying or simply interesting in his
relations with Anna Sergeyevna? And there was
nothing for him but to talk vaguely of love, of
woman, and no one guessed what It meant; only
his wife twitched her black eyebrows, and said:
" The part of a lady-killer does not suit you at all,
One evening, coming out of the doctors' club with
an official with whom he had been playing cards, he
could not resist saying:
'' If only you knew what a fascinating woman I
made the acquaintance of in Yalta ! "
The official got into his sledge and was driving
away, but turned suddenly and shouted:
" Dmitri Dmitrltch! "
l8 The Tales of Chekhov
*' You were right this evening: the sturgeon was a
bit too strong ! "
These words, so ordinary, for some reason moved
Gurov to indignation, and struck him as degrading
and unclean. What savage manners, what people !
What senseless nights, what uninteresting, unevent-
ful days ! The rage for card-playing, the gluttony,
the drunkenness, the continual talk always about the
same thing. Useless pursuits and conversations al-
ways about the same things absorb the better part of
one's time, the better part of one's strength, and in
the end there is left a life grovelling and curtailed,
worthless and trivial, and there is no escaping or
getting away from it — just as though one were in
a madhouse or a prison.
Gurov did not sleep all night, and was filled with
indignation. And he had a headache all next day.
And the next night he slept badly; he sat up in bed,
thinking, or paced up and down his room. He was
sick of his children, sick of the bank; he had no de-
sire to go anywhere or to talk of anything.
~ In the holidays in December he prepared for a
journey, and told his wife he was going to Peters-
burg to do something in the interests of a young
friend — and he set off for S . What for?
He did not very well know himself. He wanted to
see Anna Sergeyevna and to talk with her — to ar-
range a meeting, if possible.
He reached S in the morning, and took the
best room at the hotel, in which the floor was cov-
ered with grey army cloth, and on the table was an
The Lady with the Dog ig
inkstand, grey with dust and adorned with a figure
on horseback, with its hat in its hand and its head
broken off. The hotel porter gave him the neces-
sary information; Von Diderits hved in a house of
his own in Old Gontcharny Street — it was not far
from the hotel: he was rich and lived in good style,
and had his own horses: every one m the town knew
him. The porter pronounced the name "' Dridirits."
Gurov went without haste to Old Gontcharny
Street and found the house. Just opposite the house
stretched a long grey fence adorned with nails.
"One -would run away from a fence like that,"
thought Gurov, looking from the fence to the win-
dows of the house and back again.
He considered: to-day was a holiday, and the hus-
band would probably be at home. And in any case
it would be tactless to go into the house and upset
her. If he were to send her a note it might fall
into her husband's hands, and then it might ruin
everything. The best thlnpj was to trust to chance.
And he kept walking up and down the street by the
fence, waiting for the chance. He saw a beggar go
in at the gate and dogs fly at him; then an hour later
he heard a piano, and the sounds were faint and in-
distinct. Probably it was Anna Sergeyevna playing.
The front door suddenly opened, and an old woman
came out, followed by the familiar white Pomera-
nian. Gurov was on the point of calling to the dog,
but his heart be^ran beating violently, and in his ex-
citement he could not remember the dog's name.
He walked up and down, and loathed the grey
fence more and more, and by now he thought irrl-
20 The Tales of Chekhov
tably that Anna Sergeyevna had forgotten him, and
was perhaps already amusing herself with some one
else, and that that was very natural In a young
woman who had nothing to look at from morning
till night but that confounded fence. He went back
to his hotel room and sat for a long while on the
sofa, not knowing what to do, then he had dinner
and a long nap.
"How stupid and worrying it is!" he thought
when he woke and looked at the dark windows : it
was already evening. *' Here I've had a good sleep
for some reason. What shall I do in the night?"
He sat on the bed, which was covered by a cheap
grey blanket, such as one sees in hospitals, and he
taunted himself in his vexation:
*' So much for the lady with the dog ... so much
for the adventure. . . . You're in a nice fix. . . ."
That morning at the station a poster in large let-
ters had caught his eye. " The Geisha " was to be
performed for the first time. He thought of this
and went to the theatre.
" It's quite possible she may go to the first per-
formance," he thought.
The theatre was full. As in all provincial thea-
tres, there was a fog above the chandelier, the gal-
lery was noisy and restless; in the front row the local
dandies were standing up before the beginning of the
performance, with their hands behind them; in the
Governor's box the Governor's daughter, wearing a
boa, was sitting In the front seat, while the Governor
himself lurked modestly behind the curtain with only
his hands visible; the orchestra was a long time
The Lady with the Dog 21
tuning up; the stage curtain swayed. All the time
the audience were coming in and taking their seats
Gurov looked at them eagerly.
Anna Sereeyevna, too, c^mQ In. She sat down In
the third row, and when Gurov looked at her his
heart contracted, nnd he understood clearly that for
him there was in the whole vvorid no creature so
near, so precious, and so Important to him; she, this
little woman, In no Wcty remarkable, lost in a pro-
vincial crowd, with a vulgar lorgnette In her hand,
filled his who^e life now, was his sorrow and his joy,
the one happiness that he now desired for himself,
and to the sounds of the inferior orchestra, of the
wretched provincial violins, he thought how lovely
she was. He thought and dream.ed.
A voung man wnth small side-whiskers, tall and
stooping, came in with Anna Sergeyevna and sat
down beside her; he bent his head at every step and
seemed to be continually bowing. Most likely this
was the husband whom at Yalta, In a rush of bitter
feeling, she had called a flunkey. And there really
was In his long figure, his side-whiskers, and the small
bald patch on his head, something of the flunkey's
obsequiousness; his smile was sugary, and in nis but-
tonhole tnefSwas some badi?e of distinction like the
number on a waiter.
During the first interval the husband went away
to smoke; she remained alone in her stall. Gurov,
who was sitting in the stalls, too, went up to her and
said in a trembling voice, with a forced smile :
She glanced at him and turned pale, then glanced
22 The Tales of Chekhov
again with horror, unable to believe her eyes, and
tightly gripped the fan and the lorgnette In her
hands, evidently struggling with herself not to faint.
Both were silent. She was sitting, he was standing,
frigntened by he)" confusion and not venturing to sit
down beside her. The violins and the flute began
tuning up. He felt suddenly frightened; It seemed
as though all the people in the boxes were looking at
them. She got up and went quickly to the door; he
followed her, and both walked senselessly along pas-
sages, and up and down stairs, and figures In legal,
scholastic, and civil service uniforms, all wearing
badges, flitted before their eyes. [They caught
glimpses of ladies, of fur coats hanging on pegs;
the draughts blew on them, bringing a smell of stale
tobacco. And Gurov, whose heart was beating vio-
" Oh, heavens ! Why are these people here and
this orchestra! . . ."
And at that instant he recalled how when he had
seen Anna Sergeyevna ofl at the station he had
thou8:ht that everything was over and they would
never meet again. But how far they were still from
On the narrow, gloomy staircase over which was
written " To the Amphitheatre," she stopped.
" How you have frightened me ! " she said, breath-
ing hard, still pale and overwhelmed. " Oh, how
you have frightened me ! T am half dead. Why
have you come? Why? "
** But do understand, Anna, do understand . . ."
The Lady with the Dog 23
he said hastily In a low voice. '' I entreat you to
understand. . . ."
She looked at him with dread, with entreaty, with
love; she looked at him Intently, to keep his features
more distinctly in her memory.
" I am so unhappy," she went on, not heeding him.
" I have thought of nothing but you all the time; I
live only In the thought of you. And I wanted to
forget, to forget you; but why, oh, why, have you
On the landing above them two schoolboys were
smoking and looking down, but that was nothing to
Gurov; he drew Anna Sergeyevna to him, and began
kissine her face, her cheeks, and her hands.
'* What are you doing, what are you doing! " she
cried in horror, pushing him away. " We are mad.
Go away to-day; go away at once. ... I beseech
you by all that Is sacred, I Implore you. . . . There
are people coming this way! "
Some one was coming up the stairs.
** You must go away," Anna Sergeyevna went on
In a whisper. "Do you hear, Dmitri Dmitrltch?
I will come and see you In Moscow. I have never
been happy; I am miserable now, and I never, never
shall be happy, never! Don't make me suffer still
more! I swear I'll come to Moscow. But now let
us part. My precious, good, dear one, we must
She pressed his hand and began rapidly going
downstairs, looking round at him, and from her eyes
he could see that she really was unhappy: Gurov
24 The Tales of Chekhov
stood for a little while, listened, then, when all sound
had died away, he found his coat and left the theatre.
And Anna Sergeyevna began coming to see him in
Moscow. Once In two or three months she left
S , telling her husband that she was going to con-
sult a doctor about an internal complaint — and her
husband believed her, and did not believe her. In
Moscow she stayed at the Slaviansky Bazaar hotel,
and at once sent a man in a red cap to Gurov.
Gurov wen^ to see her, and no one in Moscow knew
Once he was going to see her in this way on a win-
ter morning (the messenger had come the evening
before when he was out). With him walked his
daughter, whom he wanted to take to school: it was
on the way. Snow w^as falling In big wet flakes.
" It's three degrees above freezing-point, and yet
it is snowing," said Gurov to his daughter. " The
thaw Is only on the surface of the earth; there is
quite a different temperature at a greater height: in
" And why are there no thunderstorms in the
winter, father? "
He explained that, too. He talked, thinking all
the while that he was going to see her^ and no living
soul knew of it, and probably never would know.
He had two lives: one, open, seen and known by all
wlio cared to know, ful) of relative truth and of rela-
tive falsehood, exactly like the lives ot his friends
The Lady with the Dog 25
and acquaintances; and another life running its
course in secret. And through some strange, per-
haps accidental, conjunction of circumstances, every-
thing that was essential, of interest and of value to
him, everything in which he was sincere and did not
deceive himself, evervthina: that made the kernel of
his life, was hidden iTom cititr peopie; and alt that
was taise m mm, tne snciitn in wnicn ne hid himsell
to conceal the truth — such, for instance, as his work
in the bank, his discussions at the club, his '' lower
race," his presence with his wife at anniversary fes-
tivities — all that was open. And he judged of
others by himself, not believing in what he saw, and
always believing that every man had his real, most
interesting life under the cover of secrecy and under
the cover of night. All personal life rested on
secrecy, and possibly it was partly on that account
that civilised man was so nervously anxious that
personal privacy should be respected.
After leaving his daughter at school, Gurov went
on to the Slaviansky Bazaar. He took off his fur
coat below, went upstairs, and softly knocked at the
door. Anna Sergeyevna, wearing his favourite grey
dress, exhausted by the journey and the suspense,
had been expecting him since the evening before.
She was pale; she looked at him, and did not smile,
and he had hardly come in when she fell on his
breast. Their kiss was slow and prolonged, as
though they had not met for two years.
" Well, how are you getting on there? " he asked.
*' What news?"
"Wait; ni tell you directly. ... I can't talk."
26 The Tales of Chekhov
She could not speak; she was crying. She turned
away from him, and pressed her handkerchief to her
" Let her have her cry out. I'll sit down and
wait,'* he thought, and he sat down in an arm-chair.
Then he rang and asked for tea to be brought
him, and while he drank his tea she remained stand-
ing at the window with her back to him. She was
crying from emotion, from the miserable conscious-
ness that their life was so hard for them; they could
only meet in secret, hiding themselves from people,
like thieves! Was not their life shattered?
'' Come, do stop ! " he said.
It was evident to him that this love of theirs would
not soon be over, that he could not see the end of
it. Anna Sergeyevna grew more and more attached
to him. She adored him, and it was unthinkable to
say to her that it was bound to have an end some
day; besides, she would not have believed it!
He went up to her and took her by the shoulders
to say something affectionate and cheering, and at
that moment he saw himself in the looking-glass.
His hair was already beginning to turn grey.
And it seemed strange to him that he had grown so
much older, so much plainer during the last few
years. The shoulders on which his hands rested
were warm and quivering. He felt compassion for
this life, still so warm and lovely, but probably al-
ready not far from beginning to fade and wither like
his own. Why did she love him so much? He al-
ways seemed to women ditteient irom what he was,
and they loved In bun not himself, but the man ere-
The Lady with the Dog 27
ntrcl W their imagination, whom they had been
eagerly seeking all thv^ir lives; and afterwards, when
thev noticed their mistake, they loved him all the
same. And not one of them had been happy with
him. Time passed, he had made their acquaintance,
got on with them, parted, but he had never once
loved; it was anything you like, but not love.
And only now when his head ^9^$ grey he had
fallen properly, really in love — for the first time in
Anna Sergeyevna and he loved each other like
people very close and akin, like husband and wife,
like tender friends; it seemed to them that fate Itself
had meant them for one another, and they rould not
understand why lie had a wife and she a husband;
and it was as though they were a pair or birds of
passage, caught and forced to live in different cages.
They forgave each other for what they were
ashamed of In their past, they forgave everything In
the present, and felt that this love of theirs had
changed them both.
In moments of depression in the past he had com-
forted himself with any arguments that came into
his mind, but now he no longer cared for arguments ;
he felt profound compassion, he wanted to be
sincere and tender. . . .
" Don't cry, my darling,'^ he said. " YouVe had
your cry; that^s enough. . . . Let us talk now, let
us think of some plan."
Then they spent a long while taking counsel to-
gether, talked of how to avoid the necessity for
secrecy, for deception, for living in different towns
28^ The Tales of Chekhov
and not seeing each other for long at a time. How
could they be free from this intolerable bondage?
"How? How?" he asked, clutching his head.
And it seemed as though In a little while the
solution would be found, and then a new and splen-
did life would begin; and it was clear to both of
them that they had still a long, long road before
them, and that the most complicated and difficult
part of it was only just beginning.
A DOCTOR'S VISIT
A DOCTOR'S VISIT
The Professor received a telegram from the
Lyalikovs' factory; he was asked to come as quickly
as possible. The daughter of some Madame
Lyalikov, apparently the owner of the factory, was
ill, and that was all that one could make out of the
long, incoherent telegram. And the Professor did
not go himself, but sent instead his assistant, Korol-
It was two stations from Moscow, and there was
a drive of three miles from the station. A carriage
with three horses had been sent to the station to
meet Korolyov; the coachman wore a hat with a
peacock/s feather on it, and answered every question
in a loud voice like a soldier: " No, sir! " " Cer-
tainly, sir! "
It was Saturday evening; the sun was setting, the
workpeople were coming in crowds from the factory
to the station, and they bowed to the carriage in
which Korolyov was driving. And he was charmed
with the evening, the farmhouses and villas on the
road, and the birch-trees, and the quiet atmosphere
all around, when the fields and woods and the sun
seemed preparing, like the workpeople now on the
eve of the holiday, to rest, and perhaps to pray. . . .
He was born and had grown up in Moscow; he
did not know the country, and he had never taken
32 The Tales of Chekhov
any interest in factories, or been inside one, but he
had happened to read about factories, and had been
in the houses of manufacturers and had talked to
them; and whenever he saw a factory far or near,
he always thought how quiet and peaceable it was
outside, but within there was always sure to be im-
penetrable ignorance and dull egoism on the side
of the owners, wearisome, unhealthy toil on the side
of the workpeople, squabbling, vermin, vodka.
And now when the workpeople timidly and respect-
fully made way for the carriage, in their faces, their
caps, their walk, he read physical impurity, drunk-
enness, nervous exhaustion, bewilderment.
They drove in at the factory gates. On each
side he caught glimpses of the little houses of work-
people, of the faces of women, of quilts and linen
on the railings. "Look out!" shouted the coach-
man, not pulling up the horses. It was a wide
courtyard without grass, with five immense blocks
of buildings with tall chimneys a little distance one
from another, warehouses and barracks, and over
everything a sort of grey powder as though from
dust. Here and there, like oases in the desert,
there were pitiful gardens, and the green and red
roofs of the houses in which the managers and clerks
lived. The coachman suddenly pulled up the horses,
and the carriage stopped at the house, which had
been newly painted grey; here was a flower garden,
with a lilac bush covered with dust, and on the
yellow steps at the front door there was a strong
smell of paint.
" Please come in, doctor," said women's voices
A Doctor's Visit 33
In the passage and the entry, and at the same time
he heard sighs and whisperings. *' Pray walk
in. . . . We've been expecting you so long . . .
we're in real trouble. Here, this way."
Madame Lyalikov — a stout elderly lady wear-
ing a black silk dress with fashionable sleeves, but,
judging from her face, a simple uneducated woman
— looked at the doctor in a flutter, and could not
bring herself to hold out her hand to him; she did
not dare. Beside her stood a personage with short
hair and a pince-nez; she was wearing a blouse of
many colours, and was very thin and no longer
young. The servants called her Christina Dmitry-
evna, and Korolyov guessed that this was the gov-
erness. Probably, as the person of most education
in the house, she had been charged to meet and re-
ceive the doctor, for she began immediately, in great
haste, stating the causes of the illness, giving trivial
and tiresome details, but without saying who was ill
or what was the matter.
The doctor and the governess were sitting talk-
ing while the lady of the house stood motionless at
the door, waiting. From the conversation Korolyov
learned that the patient was Madame Lyalikov's
only daughter and heiress, a girl of twenty, called
Liza; she had been ill for a long time, and had con-
sulted various doctors, and the previous night she
had suffered till morning from such violent palpita-
tions of the heart, that no one in the house had slept,
and they had been afraid she might die.
^' She has been, one may say, ailing from a child,"
said Christina Dmitryevna in a sing-song voice, con-
34 The Tales of Chekhov
tinually wiping her lips with her hand. " The
doctors say it is nerves; when she was a httle girl
she was scrofulous, and the doctors drove it inwards,
so I think it may be due to that."
They went to see the invalid. Fully grown up,
big and tall, but ugly like her mother, with the same
little eyes and disproportionate breadth of the lower
part of the face, lying with her hair in disorder,
muffled up to the chin, she made upon Korolyov at
the first minute the impression of a poor, destitute
creature, sheltered and cared for here out of charity,
and he could hardly believe that this was the heiress
of the five huge buildings.
" I am the doctor come to see you," said Korol-
yov. " Good evening."
He mentioned his name and pressed her hand,
a large, cold, ugly hand; she sat up, and, evidently
accustomed to doctors, let herself be sounded, with-
out showing the least concern that her shoulders
and chest were uncovered.
" I have palpitations of the heart," she said,
" It was so awful all night. ... I almost died
of fright! Do give me something."
"I will, I will; don't worry yourself."
Korolyov examined her and shrugged his
" The heart Is all right," he said; *' it's all going
on satisfactorily; everything is in good order.
Your nerves must have been playing pranks a little,
but that's so common. The attack is over by now,
one must suppose; lie down and go to sleep."
At that moment a lamp was brought into the bed-
A Doctor's Visit 35
room. The patient screwed up her eyes at the light,
then suddenly put her hands to her head and broke
into sobs. And the impression of a destitute, ugly
creature vanished, and Korolyov no longer noticed
the little eyes or the heavy development of the lower
part of the face. He saw a soft, suffering expres-
sion which was Intelligent and touching: she seemed
to him altogether graceful, feminine, and simple;
and he longed to soothe her, not with drugs, not
with advice, but with simple, kindly words. Her
mother put her arms round her head and hugged
her. What despair, what grief was in the old
woman's face ! She, her mother, had reared her
and brought her up, spared nothing, and devoted
her whole life to having her daughter taught French,
dancing, music: had engaged a dozen teachers for
her; had consulted the best doctors, kept a governess.
And now she could not make out the reason of
these tears, why there was all this misery, she could
not understand, and was bewildered; and she had
a guilty, agitated, despairing expression, as though
she had omitted something very Important, had left
something undone, had neglected to call In some-
body — and whom, she did not know.
" Lizanka, you are crying again . . . again,'*
she said, hugging her daughter to her. '' My own,
my darling, my child, tell me what It is ! Have pity
on me! Tell me."
Both wept bitterly. Korolyov sat down on the
side of the bed and took Liza's hand.
"Come, give over; It's no use crying," he said
kindly. *' Why, there Is nothing in the world that
36 The Tales of Chekhov
IS worth those tears. Come, we won't cry; that's
no good. . . ."
And inwardly he thought:
" It's high time she was married. . . ."
*' Our doctor at the factory gave her kahbromati,"
said the governess, " but I notice it only makes her
worse. I should have thought that if she is given
anything for the heart it ought to be drops. . . .
I forget the name. . . . Convallaria, isn't it?"
And there followed all sorts of details. She in-
terrupted the doctor, preventing his speaking, and
there was a look of effort on her face, as though
she supposed that, as the woman of most education
in the house, she was duty bound to keep up a con-
versation with the doctor, and on no other subject
Korolyov felt bored.
*' I find nothing special the matter," he said, ad-
dressing the mother as he went out of the bedroom.
" If your daughter is being attended by the factory
doctor, let him go on attending her. The treat-
ment so far has been perfectly correct, and I see no
reason for changing your doctor. Why change?
It's such an ordinary trouble; there's nothing seri-
He spoke deliberately as he put on his gloves,
while Madame Lyalikov stood without moving, and
looked at him with her tearful eyes.
" I have half an hour to catch the ten o'clock
train," he said. " I hope I am not too late."
*' And can't you stay?" she asked, and tears
trickled down her cheeks again. " I am ashamed
A Doctor's Visit 37
to trouble you, but if you would be so good. . . .
For God's sake," she went on in an undertone, glanc-
ing towards the door, "do stay to-night with us!
She is all I have . . . my only daughter. . . .
She frightened me last night; I can't get over
it. , . . Don't go away, for goodness' sake ! . . ."
He wanted to tell her that he had a great deal
of work in Moscow, that his family were expecting
him home; it was disagreeable to him to spend the
evening and the whole night in a strange house quite
needlessly; but he looked at her face, heaved a sigh,
and began taking off his gloves without a word.
All the lamps and candles were lighted in his
honour in the drawing-room and the dining-room.
He sat down at the piano and began turning over
the music. Then he looked at the pictures on the
walls, at the portraits. The pictures, oil-paintings
in gold frames, were views of the Crimea — a
stormy sea with a ship, a Catholic monk with a wine-
glass; they were all dull, smooth daubs, with no
trace of talent in them. There was not a single
good-looking face among the portraits, nothing but
broad cheekbones and astonished-looking eyes.
Lyahkov, Liza's father, had a low forehead and
a self-satisfied expression; his uniform sat like a
sack on his bulky plebeian figure; on his breast was
a medal and a Red Cross Badge. There was little
sign of culture, and the luxury was senseless and
haphazard, and was as ill fitting as that uniform.
The floors irritated him with their brilliant polish,
the lustres on the chandelier irritated him, and he
was reminded for some reason of the story of the
38 The Tales of Chekhov
merchant who used to go to the baths with a medal
on his neck. . . .
He heard a whispering in the entry; some one was
softly snoring. And suddenly from outside came
harsh, abrupt, metallic sounds, such as Korolyov
had never heard before, and which he did not under-
stand now; they roused strange, unpleasant echoes
in his soul.
*' I believe nothing would induce me to remain
here to live . . ." he thought, and went back to the
'' Doctor, please come to supper! " the governess
called him in a low voice.
He went into supper. The table was large and
laid with a vast number of dishes and wines, but
there were only two to supper: himself and Chris-
tina Dmitryevna. She drank Madeira, ate rapidly,
and talked, looking at him through her pince-nez
" Our workpeople are very contented. We hav^
performances at the factory every winter; the work-
people act themselves. They have lectures with a
magic lantern, a splendid tea-room, and everything
they want. They are very much attached to us,
and when they heard that Lizanka was worse they
had a service sung for her. Though they have no
education, they have their feelings, too."
^* It looks as though you have no man in the house
at all," said Korolyov.
" Not one. Pyotr Nikanoritch died a year and
a half ago, and left us alone. And so there are
the three of us. In the summer we live here, and
in winter we live in Moscow, in Polianka. I have
A Doctor's Visit 39
been living with them for eleven years — as one of
At supper they served sterlet, chicken rissoles,
and stewed fruit; the wines were expensive French
" Please don't stand on ceremony, doctor," said
Christina Dmitryevna, eating and wiping her mouth
with her fist, and it was evident she found her life
here exceedingly pleasant. *' Please have some
After supper the doctor was shown to his room,
where a bed had been made up for him, but he
did not feel sleepy. The room was stuffy and it
smelt of paint; he put on his coat and went out.
It was cool in the open air; there was already
a glimmer of dawn, and all the five blocks of build-
ings, with their tall chimneys, barracks, and ware-
houses, were distinctly outlined against the damp
air. As it was a holiday, they were not working,
and the windows were dark, and in only one of the
buildings was there a furnace burning; two windows
were crimson, and fire mixed with smoke came from
time to time from the chimney. Far away beyond
the yard the frogs were croaking and the night-
Looking at the factory buildings and the bar-
racks, where the workpeople were asleep, he thought
again what he always thought when he saw a fac-
tory. They may have performances for the work-
people, magic lanterns, factory doctors, and im-
provements of all sorts, but, all the same, the
workpeople he had met that day on his way from
40 The Tales of Chekhov
the station did not look in any way different from
those he had known long ago in his childhood, be-
fore there were factory performances and improve-
ments. As a doctor accustomed to judging correctly
of chronic complaints, the radical cause of which
was Incomprehensible and incurable, he looked upon
factories as something baffling, the cause of which
also was obscure and not removable, and all the
improvements in the life of the factory hands he
looked upon not as superfluous, but as comparable
with the treatment of incurable illnesses.
*' There is something baffling in it, of course . . ."
he thought, looking at the crimson windows.
" Fifteen hundred or two thousand workpeople are
working without rest in unhealthy surroundings,
making bad cotton goods, living on the verge of
starvation, and only waking from this nightmare at
rare intervals in the tavern; a hundred people act
as overseers, and the whole life of that hundred
is spent in imposing fines, in abuse, in injustice, and
only two or three so-called owners enjoy the profits,
though they don't work at all, and despise the
wretched cotton. But what are the profits, and how
do they enjoy them? Madame Lyalikov and her
daughter are unhappy — it makes one wretched to
look at them; the only one who enjoys her life is
Christina Dmitryevna, a stupid, middle-aged maiden
lady in pince-nez. And so it appears that all these
five blocks of buildings are at work, and inferior
cotton is sold In the Eastern markets, simply that
Christina Dmitryevna may eat sterlet and drink
A Doctor's Visit 41
Suddenly there came a strange noise, the same
sound Korolyov had heard before supper. Some
one was striking on a sheet of metal near one of
the buildings; he struck a note, and then at once
checked the vibrations, so that short, abrupt, dis-
cordant sounds were produced, rather like " Dair
. . . daIr . . . dair. . . ." Then there was half
a minute of stillness, and from another building there
came sounds equally abrupt and unpleasant, lower
bass notes: " Drin . . ..drin . . . drin. . . ."
Eleven times. Evidently It was the watchman strik-
ing the hour.
Near the third building he heard: " Zhuk . . .
zhuk . . . zhuk. . . ." And so near all the build-
ings, and then behind the barracks and beyond the
gates. And In the stillness of the night it seemed
as though these sounds were uttered by a monster
with crimson eyes — the devil himself, who con-
trolled the owners and the work-people alike, and
was deceiving both.
Korolyov went out of the yard into the open
" Who goes there? " some one called to him at the
gates in an abrupt voice.
" It's just like being in prison," he thought, and
made no answer.
Here the nightingales and the frogs could be
heard nore distinctly, and one could feel it was a
night in May. From the station came the noise
of a train; somewhere in the distance drowsy cocks
were crowing; but, all the same, the night was still,
the world was sleeping tranquilly. In a field not
42 The Tales of Chekhov
far from the factory there could be seen the frame-
work of a house and heaps of building material:
Korolyov sat down on the planks and went on think-
"The only person who feels happy here Is the
governess, and the factory hands are working for
her gratification. But that's only apparent: she
is only the figurehead. The real person, for whom
everything Is being done, is the devil."
And he thought about the devil, in whom he did
not believe, and he looked round at the two windows
where the fires were gleaming. It seemed to him
that out of those crimson eyes the devil himself was
looking at him — that unknown force that had
created the mutual relation of the strong and the
weak, that coarse blunder which one could never
correct. The strong must hinder the weak from
living — such was the law of Nature; but only in
a newspaper article or in a school book was that
Intelligible and easily accepted. In the hotchpotch
which was everyday life, in the tangle of trivialities
out of which human relations were woven, it was no
longer a law, but a logical absurdity, when the
strong and the weak were both equally victims of
their mutual relations, unwillingly submitting to
some directing force, unknown, standing outside
life, apart from man.
So thought Korolyov, sitting on the planks, and
little by little he was possessed by a feeling that
this unknown and mysterious force was really close
by and looking at him. Meanwhile the east was
growing paler, time passed rapidly; when there was
A Doctor's Visit 43
not a soul anywhere near, as though everything were
dead, the five buildings and their chimneys against
the grey background of the dawn had a peculiar
look — not the same as by day; one forgot alto-
gether that Inside there were steam motors, electric-
ity, telephones, and kept thinking of lake-dwellings,
of the Stone Age, feeling the presence of a crude,
unconscious force. . . .
And again there came the sound: " Dair . . .
dair . . . dair . . . dair . . ." twelve times.
Then there was stillness, stillness for half a minute,
and at the other end of the yard there rang out.
" Drin . . . drin . . . drin. . . .'*
*' Horribly disagreeable," thought Korolyov.
" Zhuk . . . zhuk . . ." there resounded from
a third place, abruptly, sharply, as though with
annoyance — " Zhuk . . . zhuk. . . ."
And it took four minutes to strike twelve. Then
there was a hush; and again it seemed as though
everything were dead.
Korolyov sat a little longer, then went to the
house, but sat up for a good while longer. In the
adjoining rooms there w^as whispering, there was a
sound of shuffling slippers and bare feet.
" Is she having another attack? " thought
He went out to have a look at the patient. By
now It was quite light In the rooms, and a faint
glimmer of sunlight, piercing through the morning
mist, quivered on the floor and on the wall of the
drawing-room. The door of Liza's room was
open, and she was sitting in a low chair beside her
44 The Tales of Chekhov
bed, with her hair down, wearing a dressing-gown
and wrapped In a shawl. The blinds were down
on the windows.
"How do you feel?" asked Korolyov.
" Thank you."
He touched her pulse, then straightened her hair,
that had fallen over her forehead.
" You are not asleep," he said. " It's beautiful
weather outside. It's spring. The nightingales
are singing, and you sit In the dark and think of
She listened and looked into his face; her eyes
were sorrowful and Intelligent, and It was evident
she wanted to say something to him.
" Does this happen to you often? " he said.
She moved her lips, and answered:
" Often, I feel wretched almost every night."
At that moment the watchman In the yard began
striking two o'clock. They heard: " Dair . . .
dair . . ." and she shuddered.
" Do those knocklngs worry you? " he asked.
*' I don't know. Everything here worries me,"
she answered, and pondered. " Everything worries
me. I hear sympathy In your voice; It seemed to
me as soon as I saw you that I could tell you all
" Tell me, I beg you."
" I want to tell you of my opinion. It seems to
me that I have no Illness, but that I am weary and
frightened, because It is bound to be so and cannot
be otherwise. Even the healthiest person can't
help being uneasy If, for Instance, a robber is moving
A Doctor's Visit 45
about under his window. I am constantly being
doctored," she went on, looking at her knees, and
she gave a shy smile. " I am very grateful, of
course, and I do not deny that the treatment is a
benefit; but I should like to talk, not with a doctor,
but with some Intimate friend who would understand
me and would convince me that I was right or
" Have you no friends? " asked Korolyov.
" I am lonely. I have a mother; I love her, but,
all the same, I am lonely. That's how It happens
to be. . . . Lonely people read a great deal, but
say little and hear little. Life for them Is mysteri-
ous; they are mystics and often see the devil where
he Is not. Lermontov's Tamara was lonely and she
saw the devil."
" Do you read a great deal? "
*' Yes. You see, my whole time is free from
morning till night. I read by day, and by night my
head Is empty; instead of thoughts there are shadows
"Do you see anything at night?" asked Korol-
" No, but I feel. . . ."
She smiled again, raised her eyes to the doctor,
and looked at him so sorrowfully, so Intelligently; and
it seemed to him that she trusted him, and that she
wanted to speak frankly to him, and that she thought
the same as he did. But she was silent, perhaps
waiting for him to speak.
And he knew what to say to her. It was clear
to him that she needed as quickly as possible to give
46 The Tales of Chekhov
up the five buildings and the million if she had it —
to leave that devil that looked out at night; it was
clear to him, too, that she thought so herself, and
was only waiting for some one she trusted to confirm
But he did not know how to say it. How?
One is shy of asking men under sentence what they
have been sentenced for; and in the same way it
is awkward to ask very rich people what they want
so much money for, why they make such a poor use
of their wealth, why they don't give it up, even
when they see in it their unhappiness; and if they
begin a conversation about it themselves, it is usually
embarrassing, awkward, and long.
"How is one to say it?" Korolyov wondered.
"And is it necessary to speak?"
And he said what he meant in a roundabout way:
" You In the position of a factory owner and a
wealthy heiress are dissatisfied; you don't believe
In your right to it; and here now you can't sleep.
That, of course, is better than if you were satisfied,
slept soundly, and thought everything was satis-
factory. Your sleeplessness does you credit; in any
case, It is a good sign. In reality, such a conversa-
tion as this between us now would have been un-
thinkable for our parents. At night they did not
talk, but slept sound; we, our generation, sleep
badly, are restless, but talk a great deal, and are
always trying to settle whether we are right or not.
For our children or grandchildren that question —
whether they are right or not — will have been
settled. Things will be clearer for them than for
A Doctor's Visit 47
us. Life will be good In fifty years' time; It's only
a pity we shall not last out till then. It would be
interesting to have a peep at It."
" What will our children and grandchildren do? "
" I don't know. ... I suppose they will throw
It all up and go away."
"Where? . . . Why, where they like," said
Korolyov; and he laughed. "There are lots of
places a good, Intelligent person can go to."
He glanced at his watch.
" The sun has risen, though," he said. " It Is
time you were asleep. Undress and sleep soundly.
Very glad to have made your acquaintance," he went
on, pressing her hand. " You are a good, inter-
esting woman. Good-night!"
He went to his room and went to bed.
In the morning when the carriage was brought
round they all came out on to the steps to see him
off. Liza, pale and exhausted, was in a white dress
as though for a holiday, with a flower In her hair;
she looked at him, as yesterday, sorrowfully and In-
telligently, smiled and talked, and all with an ex-
pression as though she wanted to tell him something
special, Important — him alone. They could hear
the larks trilling and the church bells pealing. The
windows in the factory buildings were sparkling
gaily, and, driving across the yard and afterwards
along the road to the station, Korolyov thought
neither of the workpeople nor of lake dwellings, nor
of the devil, but thought of the time, perhaps close
48 The Tales of Chekhov
at hand, when life would be as bright and joyous
as that still Sunday morning; and he thought how
pleasant it was on such a morning in the spring to
drive with three horses in a good carriage, and
to bask in the sunshine.
Mashenka Pavletsky, a young girl who had
only just finished her studies at a boarding school,
returning from a walk to the house of the Kush-
kins, with whom she was living as a governess, found
the household in a terrible turmoil. | Mihailo, the
porter who opened the door to her, was excited and
red as a crab.
Loud voices were heard from upstairs.
" Madame Kushkin is in a fit, most likely, or
else she has quarrelled with her husband," thought
In the hall and in the corridor she met maid-
servants. One of them was crying. Then Mash-
enka saw, running out of her room, the master of
the house himself, Nikolay Sergeitch, a little man
with a flabby face and a bald head, though he was
not old. He was red in the face and twitching
all over. He passed the governess without notic-
ing her, and throwing up his arms, exclaimed:
"Oh, how horrible it is! How tactless! How
stupid! How barbarous! Abominable!"
Mashenka went into her room, and then, for the
first time in her life, it was her lot to experience
in all its acuteness the feeling that is so familiar
to persons in dependent positions, who eat the bread
of the rich and powerful, and cannot speak their
52 The Tales of Chekhov
minds. There was a search going on in her room.
The lady of the house, Fedosya Vassilyevna, a stout,
broad-shouldered, uncouth woman with thick black
eyebrows, ^a faintly perceptible moustache, and red
hands, who was exactly like a plain, illiterate cook
in face and manners, was standing, without her cap
on, at the table, putting back into Mashenka's work-
bag balls of wool, scraps of materials, and bits of
paper. . . . Evidently the governess's arrival took
her by surprise, since, on looking round and seeing
the girl's pale and astonished face, she was a little
taken aback, and muttered:
'' Pardon. I ... I upset it accidentally. . . .
My sleeve caught in it. . . ."
And saying something more, Madame Kushkin
rustled her long skirts and went out. Mashenka
looked round her room with wondering eyes, and,
unable to understand it, not knowing what to think,
shrugged her shoulders, and turned cold with dis-
may. What had Fedosya Vassilyevna been looking
for in her work-bag? If she really had, as she
said, caught her sleeve in it and upset everything,
why had Nikolay Sergeitch dashed out of her room
so excited and red in the face? Why was one
drawer of the table pulled out a little way? The
money-box, in which the governess put away ten
kopeck pieces and old stamps, was open. They had
opened it, but did not know how to shut it, though
they had scratched the lock all over. The whatnot
with her books on it, the things on the table, the bed
— all bore fresh traces of a search. Her linen-
basket, too. The linen had been carefully folded,
An Upheaval 53
but It was not in the same order as Mashenka had
left It when she went out. So the search had been
thorough, most thorough. But what was it for?
Why? What had happened? Mashenka remem-
bered the excited porter, the general turmoil which
was still going on, the weeping servant-girl; had It
not all some connection with the search that had
just been made in her room? Was not she mixed
up In something dreadful? Mashenka turned pale,
and feeling cold all over, sank on to her linen-
A maid-servant came Into the room.
*' Liza, you don't know why they have been rum-
maging In my room? " the governess asked her.
" Mistress has lost a brooch worth two thou-
sand," said Liza.
" Yes, but why have they been rummaging In my
" They've been searching every one, miss.
They've searched all my things, too. They stripped
us all naked and searched us. . .. . God knows,
miss, I never went near her TOife!-t aj)k, let alone
touching the brooch. I shall say the same at the
'* But . . . why have they been rummaging
here? " the governess still wondered.
" A brooch has been stolen, I tell you. The mis-
tress has been rummaging In everything with her
own hands. She even searched Mihallo, t he por-
ter, herself. It's a perfect disgrace ! Nikolay
Sergeitch simply looks on and cackles like a hen.
But you've no need to tremble like that, miss. Xhey
54 The Tales of Chekhov
found nothing here. You've nothing to be afraid
of if you didn't take the brooch."
" But, Liza, it's vile . . . it's insulting," said
Mashenka, breathless with indignation. " It's so
mean, so low! What right had she to suspect me
and to rummage in my things?"
" You are living with strangers, miss," sighed
Liza. " Though you are a young lady, still you
are ... as it were ... a servant. . . . It's not
like living with your papa and mamma."
Mashenka threw herself on the bed and sobbed
bitterly. Never in her life had she been subjected
to such an outrage, never had she been so deeply
insulted. . . . She, well-educated, refined, the
daughter of a teacher, was suspected of theft; she
had been searched like a street-walker ! She could
not imagine a greater insult. And to this feeling
of resentment was added an oppressive dread of
what would come next. AH sorts of absurd ideas
came into her mind. If they could suspect her of
theft, then they might arrest her, strip her naked,
and search her, then lead her through the street with
an escort of soldiers, cast her into a cold, dark cell
with mice and woodlice, exactly like the dungeon
in which Princess Tarakanov was imprisoned.
Who would stand up for her? Her parents lived
far away in the provinces; they had not the money
to come to her. In the capital she was as solitary
as in a desert, without friends or kindred. They
could do what they liked with her.
*' I will go to all the courts and all the lawyers,"
Mashenka thought, trembling. " I will explain to
An Upheaval 55
them, I will take an oath. . . . They will believe
that I could not be a thief! "
Mashenka remembered that under the sheets in
her basket she had some sweetmeats, which, follow-
ing the habits of her schooldays, she had put in her
pocket at dinner and carried off to her room. She
felt hot all over, and was ashamed at the thought
that her little secret was known to the lady of the
house; and all this terror, shame, resentment,
brought on an attack of palpitation of the heart,
which set up a throbbing in her temples, in her
heart, and deep down in her stomach.
" Dinner is ready," the servant summoned Mash-
"Shall I go, or not?"
Mashenka brushed her hair, wiped her face with
a wet towel, and went into the dining-room. There
they had already begun dinner. At one end of the
table sat Fedosya Vassilyevna with a stupid, solemn,
serious face; at the other end Nikolay Sergeitch.
At the sides there were the visitors and the children.
The dishes were handed by two footmen in swallow-
tails and white gloves. Every one knew that there
was an upset in the house, that Madame Kushkin
was in trouble, and every one was silent. Nothing
was heard but the sound of munching and the rattle
of spoons on the plates.
The lady of the house, herself, was the first to
" What Is the third course? " she asked the foot-
man In a weary, injured voice.
^' Esturgeon a la russet answered the footman.
56 The Tales of Chekhov
" I ordered that, Fenya," Nikolay Sergeitch
hastened to observe. *' I wanted some fish. If
you don't hke It, ma chere, don't let them serve it.
I just ordered it. . . ."
Fedosya Vassilyevna did not like dishes that she
had not ordered herself, and now her eyes filled
" Come, don't let us agitate ourselves," Mami-
kov, her household doctor, observed in a honeyed
voice, just touching her arm, with a smile as honeyed.
'* We are nervous enough as it is. Let us forget
the brooch! Health is worth more than two thou-
sand roubles! "
" It's not the two thousand I regret," answered
the lady, and a big tear rolled down her cheek.
" It's the fact itself that revolts me! I cannot put
up with thieves in my house. I don't regret it —
I regret nothing; but to steal from me is such in-
gratitude ! That's how they repay me for my
kindness. . . ."
They all looked Into their plates, but Mashenka
fancied after the lady's words that every one was
looking at her. A lump rose In her throat; she
began crying and put her handkerchief to her lips.
'' Pardon/' she muttered. " I can't help it.
My head aches. I'll go away."
And she got up from the table, scraping her
chair awkwardly, and went out quickly, still more
overcome with confusion.
*' It's beyond everything!" said Nikolay Ser-
geitch, frowning. " What need was there to search
her room? How out of place it was! "
An Upheaval 57
" I don't say she took the brooch," said Fedosya
Vassilyevna, *' but can you answer for her? To
tell the truth, I haven't much confidence In these
" It really was unsuitable, Fenya. . . . Excuse
me, Fenya, but you've no kind of legal right to
make a search."
*' I know nothing about your laws. All I know
is that Fve lost my brooch. And I will find the
brooch ! " She brought her fork down on the plate
with a clatter, and her eyes flashed angrily. *' And
you eat your dinner, and don't Interfere In what
doesn't concern you ! "
NIkolay Sergeltch dropped his eyes mildly and
sighed. Meanwhile Mashenka, .reaching her room,
flung herself on her bed. She felt now neither
alarm nor shame, but she felt an Intense longing to
go and slap the cheeks of this hard, arrogant, dull-
witted, prosperous woman.
Lying on her bed she breathed Into her pillow
and dreamed of how nice it would be to go and
buy the most expensive brooch and fling it into the
face of this bullying woman. If only It were God's
will that Fedosya Vassilyevna should come to ruin
and wander about begging, and should taste all the
horrors of poverty and dependence, and that Mash-
enka, whom she had Insulted, might give her alms!
Oh, If only she could come In for a big fortune,
could buy a carriage, and could drive noisily past
the windows so as to be envied by that woman !
But all these were only dreams, in reality there
was only one thing left to do — to get away as
58 The Tales of Chekhov
quickly as possible, not to stay another hour hi this
place. It was true it was terrible to lose her place,
to go back to her parents, who had nothing; but
what could she do? Mashenka could not bear the
sight of the lady of the house nor of her little room;
she felt stifled and wretched here. She was so dis-
gusted with Fedosya Vassilyevna, who was so
obsessed by her illnesses and her supposed aristo-
cratic rank, that everything in the world seemed to
have become coarse and unattractive because this
woman was living in It. Mashenka jumped up
from the bed and began packing.
"May I come in?" asked NIkolay Sergeitch at
the door; he had come up noiselessly to the door,
and spoke In a soft, subdued voice. " May I? "
" Come In."
He came In and stood still near the door. His
eyes looked dim and his red little nose was shiny.
After dinner he used to drink beer, and the fact was
perceptible In his walk, in his feeble, flabby hands.
** What's this? " hfe^o&ked, poimtlng to the basket.
" I am packing. Forgive me, NIkolay Sergeitch,
but I cannot remain In your house. I feel deeply in-
sulted by this search ! "
" I understand. . . . Only you are w^rong to go.
. . . Why should you? They've searched your
things, but _you_.., . . what does It matter to you?
You will Ee none the worse for It."
Mashenka was silent and went on packing. NIko-
lay Sergeltch^plnched his moustache, as though won-
dering what he should say next, and went on In an
ingratiating voice :
An Upheaval 59
" I understand, of course, but you must make al-
lowances. You know my wife is nervous, head-
strong; you mustn't judge her too harshly."
Mashenka did not speak.
" If you are so offended," Nikolay Sergeitch went
on, '' well, if you like, I'm ready to apologise. I ask
Mashenka made no ansv/er, but only bent low^er
over her box. This exhausted, irresolute man was
of absolutely no significance in the household. He
stood in the pitiful position of a dependent and
hanger-on, even with the servants, and his apology
meant nothing either.
'*H'm! . . . You say nothing! That's not
enough for you. In that case, I will apologise for
my wife. In my wife's name. . . . She behaved
tactlessly, I admit it as a gentleman. ..."
Nikolay Sergeitch walked about the room, heaved
a sigh, and went on :
" Then you want me to have it rankling here, un-
der my heart. . . . You want my conscience to tor-
ment me. . . ."
*' I know It's not your fault, Nikolay Sergeitch,"
said Mashenka, looking him full in the face witH her
big tear-stained eyes. " Why should you worry
" Of course, no. . . . But still, don't you . . .
go away. I entreat you."
Mashenka shook her head. Nikolay Sergeitch
stopped at the window and drummed on the pane
with his finger-tips.
" Such misunderstandings are simply torture to
6o The Tales of Chekhov
me," he said. '* Why, do you want me to go down
on my knees to you, or what? Your pride is
wounded, and here you've been crying and packing
up to go; but I have pride, too, and you do not spare
it ! Or do you want me to tell you what I would not
tell as Confession? Do you? Listen; you want me
to tell you what I won't tell the priest on my death-
Mashenka made no answer.
" I took my wife's brooch," Nikolay Sergeitch said
quickly. *' Is that enough now? Are you satisfied?
Yes, I . . . took it. . . . But, of course, I count on
your discretion. . . . For God's sake, not a word,,
not half a hint to any one ! "
Mashenka, amazed and frightened, went on pack-
ing; she snatched her things, crumpled them up, and
thrust them anyhow into the box and the basket.
Now, after this candid avowal on the part of Nikolay
Sergeitch, she could not remain another minute, and
could not understand how she could have gone on
living in the house before.
" And it's nothing to wonder at," Nikolay Ser-
geitch went on after a pause. *' It's an everyday
story! I need money, and she . . . won't give it
to me. It was my father's money that bought this
house and everything, you know! It's all mine, and
the brooch belonged to my mother, and . . . it's all
mine! And she took It, took possession of every-
thing. ... I can't go to law with her, you'll admit.
... I beg you most earnestly, overlook it . . . stay
on. Tout comprendre, tout pardonner. Will you
An Upheaval 6i
** No ! " said Mashenka resolutely, beginning to
tremble. " Let me alone, I entreat you ! "
" Well, God bless you ! " sighed Nikolay Sergeltch,
sitting down on the stool near the box. " I must
own I like people who still can feel resentment, con-
tempt, and so on. I could sit here forever and look
at your Indignant face. ... So you won't stay,
then? I understand. . . . It's bound to be so. . . .
Yes, of course. . . . It's all right for you, but for
me — wo-o-o-o ! . . . I can't stir a step out of this
cellar. I'd go off to one of our estates, but In every
one of them there are some of my wife's rascals . . .
stewards, experts, damn them all ! They mortgage
and remortgage. . . . You mustn't catch fish, must
keep off the grass, mustn't break the trees."
" Nikolay Sergeltch I " his wife's voice called from
the drawing-room. " Agnia, call your master! "
'* Then you won't stay? " asked Nikolay Sergeltch,
getting up quickly and going towards the door.
*' You might as well stay, really. In the evenings I
could come and have a talk with you. Eh? Stay!
If you go, there won't be a human face left In the
house. It's awful ! "
Nikolay Sergeltch's pale, exhausted face besought
her, but Mashenka shook her head, and with a wave
of his hand he went out.
Half an hour later she was on her way.
When visitors to the provincial town S com-
plained of the dreariness and monotony of life, the
inhabitants of the town, as though defending them-
selves, declared that it was very nice in S , that
there was a library, a theatre, a club; that they had
balls; and, finally, that there were clever, agreeable,
and interesting families with whom one could make
acquaintance. And they used to point to the family
of the Turkins as the most highly cultivated and
This family lived in their own house In tTie prin-
cipal street, near the Governor's. Ivan Petrovitch
Turkin himself — a stout, handsome, dark man with
whiskers — used to get up amateur performances
for benevolent objects, and used to take the part of
an elderly general and cough very amusingly. He
knew a number of anecdotes, charades, proverbs, and
was fond of being humorous and witty, and he al-
ways wore an expression from which it was impossi-
ble to tell whether he were joking or in earnest. His
wife, Vera losifovna — a thin, nice-looking lady
who wore a pince-nez — used to write novels and
stories, and was very fond of reading them aloud to
her visitors. The daughter, Ekaterina Ivanovna, a
66 The Tales of Chekhov
young girl, used to play on the piano. In short,
every member of the family had a special talent.
The Turkins welcomed visitors, and good-humour-
edly displayed their talents with genuine simplicity.
Their stone house was roomy and cool in summer;
half of the windows looked into a shady old garden,
where nightingales used to sing in the spring. When
there were visitors in the house, there was a clatter
of knives in the kitchen and a smell of fried onions
in the yard — and that was always a sure sign of a
plentiful and savoury supper to follow.
And as soon as Dmitri lonitch Startsev was ap-
pointed the district doctor, and took up his abode at
Dyalizh, six miles from S , he, too, was told that
as a cultivated man it was essential for him to make
the acquaintance of the Turkins. In the winter he
was introduced to Ivan Petrovitch in the street ; they
talked about the weather, about the theatre, about
the cholera; an invitation followed. On a holiday
in the spring — it was Ascension Day — after seeing
his patients, Startsev set off for town in search of a
little recreation and to make some purchases. He
walked in a leisurely way (he had not yet set up his
carriage), humming all the time:
" * Before I'd drunk the tears from life's goblet. ...''*
In town he dined, went for a walk in the gardens,
then Ivan Petrovitch's invitation came into his mind,
as it were of itself, and he decided to call on the
Turkins and see what sort of people they were.
"How do you do, if you please?" said Ivan
Petrovitch, meeting him on the steps. '' Delighted,
delighted to see such an agreeable visitor. Come
along; I will introduce you to my better half. I tell
him, Verotchka," he went on, as he presented the
doctor to his wife — '' I tell him that he has no hu-
man right to sit at home in a hospital; he ought to
devote his leisure to society. Oughtn't he, dar-
" Sit here," said Vera losifovna, making her vis-
itor sit down beside her. "You can dance attend-
ance on me. My husband is jealous — he is an
Othello ; but we will try and behave so well that he
will notice nothing."
" Ah, you spoilt chicken! " Ivan Petrovitch mut-
tered tenderly, and he kissed her on the forehead.
" You have come just in the nick of time," he said,
addressing the doctor again. '' My better half has
written a ' hugeous ' novel, and she is going to read
it aloud to-day."
" Petit Jean," said Vera losifovna to her husband,
" dites que Ton nous donne du the."
Startsev was introduced to Ekaterina Ivanovna, a
girl of eighteen, very much like her mother, thin and
pretty. Her expression was still childish and her
figure was soft and slim; and her developed girlish
bosom, healthy and beautiful, was suggestive of
spring, real spring.
Then they drank tea with jam, honey, and sweet-
meats, and with very nice cakes, which melted in the
mouth. As the evening came on, other visitors grad-
ually arrived, and Ivan Petrovitch fixed his laughing
eyes on each of them and said:
*' How do you do, if you please? "
68 The Tales of Chekhov
Then they all sat down In the drawing-room with
very serious faces, and Vera losifovna read her
novel. It began like this: "The frost was in-
tense. . . ." The windows were wide open; from
the kitchen came the clatter of knives and the smell
of fried onions. ... It was comfortable in the soft
deep arm-chair ; the Hghts had such a friendly twinkle
in the twilight of the drawing-room, and at the mo-
ment on a summer evening when sounds of voices
and laughter floated in from the street and whiffs of
lilac from the yard, it was difficult to grasp that the
frost was intense, and that the setting sun was light-
ing with Its chilly rays a solitary wayfarer on the
snowy plain. Vera losifovna read how a beautiful
young countess founded a school, a hospital, a
library, In her village, and fell in love with a wan-
dering artist; she read of what never happens In real
life, and yet it was pleasant to listen — it was com-
fortable, and such agreeable, serene thoughts kept
coming Into the mind, one had no desire to get up.
" Not badsome . . ." Ivan Petrovltch said softly.
And one of the visitors hearing, with his thoughts
far away, said hardly audibly:
" Yes . . . truly. . . ."
One hour passed, another. In the town gardens
close by a band was playing and a chorus was sing-
ing. When Vera losifovna shut her manuscript
book, the company was silent for five minutes, listen-
ing to " Lutchlna " being sung by the chorus, and
the song gave what was not in the novel and is in
"Do you publish your stories In magazines?"
Startsev asked Vera loslfovna.
" No," she answered. " I never pubHsh. I
write it and put It away In my cupboard. Why pub-
lish?" she explained. "We have enough to live
And for some reason every one sighed.
'* And now, Kitten, you play something," Ivan
Petrovltch said to his daughter.
The lid of the piano was raised and the music
lying ready was opened. Ekaterlna Ivanovna sat
down and banged on the piano with both hands, and
then banged again with all her might, and then again
and again; her shoulders and bosom shook. She
obstinately banged on the same notes, and it sounded
as if she would not leave off until she had hammered
the keys into the piano. The drawing-room was
filled with the din; everything was resounding; the
floor, the celling, the furniture. . . . Ekaterlna
Ivanovna was playing a difficult passage. Interesting
simply on account of its difficulty, long and monoto-
nous, and Startsev, listening, pictured stones drop-
ping down a steep hill and going on dropping, and
he wished they would leave off dropping; and at
the same time Ekaterlna Ivanovna, rosy from the
violent exercise, strong and vigorous, with a lock
of hair falling over her forehead, attracted him very
much. After the winter spent at Dyalizh among
patients and peasants, to sit in a drawing-room, to
watch this young, elegant, and, In all probability,
pure creature, and to listen to these noisy, tedious
70 The Tales of Chekhov
but still cultured sounds, was so pleasant, so
novel. . . .
" Well, Kitten, you have played as never before,"
said Ivan Petrovitch, with tears in his eyes, when
his daughter had finished and stood up. " Die,
Denis; you won't write anything better."
All flocked round her, congratulated her, ex-
pressed astonishment, declared that it was long since
they had heard such music, and she listened in silence
with a faint smile, and her whole figure was ex-
pressive of triumph.
'* Splendid, superb ! "
" Splendid," said Startsev, too, carried away by
the general enthusiasm. " Where have you stud-
ied? " he asked Ekaterina Ivanovna. " At the Con-
" No, I am only preparing for the Conservatoire,
and till now have been working with Madame Zav-
" Have you finished at the high school here? "
" Oh, no," Vera losifovna answered for her.
"We have teachers for her at home; there might
be bad influences at the high school or a boarding
school, you know. While a young girl is growing
up, she ought to be under no influence but her
" All the same, I'm going to the Conservatoire,"
said Ekaterina Ivanovna.
" No. Kitten loves her mamma. Kitten won't
grieve papa and mamma."
'' No, I'm going, I'm going," said Ekaterina
Ivanovna, with playful caprice and stamping her
And at supper it was Ivan Petrovitch who dis-
played his talents. Laughing only with his eyes,
he told anecdotes, made epigrams, asked ridiculous
riddles and answered them himself, talking the
whole time in his extraordinary language, evolved
in the course of prolonged practice in witticism
and evidently now become a habit: *' Badsome,"
" Hugeous," " Thank you most dumbly," and so
But that was not all. When the guests, replete
and satisfied, trooped into the hall, looking for their
coats and sticks, there bustled about them the foot-
man Pavlusha, or, as he was called in the family,
Pava — a lad of fourteen with shaven head and
"Come, Pava, perform!" Ivan Petrovitch said
Pava struck an attitude, flung up his arm, and
said in a tragic tone : " Unhappy woman, die ! "
And every one roared with laughter.
'' It's entertaining," thought Startsev, as he went
out into the street.
He went to a restaurant and drank some beer,
then set off to walk home to Dyalizh; he walked
all the way singing:
" ' Thy voice to me so languid and caressing. . . .' "
On going to bed, he felt not the slightest fatigue
after the six miles' walk. On the contrary, he felt
72 The Tales of Chekhov
as though he could with pleasure have walked an-
" Not badsome," he thought, and laughed as he
Startsev kept meaning to go to the Turkins'
again, but there was a great deal of work in the
hospital, and he was unable to find free time. In
this way more than a year passed in work and soli-
tude. But one day a letter in a light blue envelope
was brought him from the town. . . .
Vera losifovna had been suffering for some time
from migraine, but now since Kitten frightened her
every day by saying that she was going away to the
Conservatoire, the attacks began to be more fre-
quent. All the doctors of the town had been at
the Turkins'; at last it was the district doctor's turn.
Vera losifovna wrote him a touching letter in which
she begged him to come and relieve her sufferings.
Startsev went, and after that he began to be often,
very often at the Turkins'. . . . He really did
something for Vera losifovna, and she was already
telling all her visitors that he was a wonderful and
exceptional doctor. But it was not for the sake of
her migraine that he visited the Turkins' now. . . .
It was a holiday. Ekaterina Ivanovna finished
her long, wearisome exercises on the piano. Then
they sat a long time in the dining-room, drinking
tea, and Ivan Petrovitch told some amusing story.
Then there was a ring and he had to go into the
hall to welcome a guest; Startsev took advantage
of the momentary commotion, and whispered to
Ekaterina Ivanovna in great agitation:
" For God's sake, I entreat you, don't torment
me; let us go into the garden! "
She shrugged her shoulders, as though perplexed
and not knowing what he wanted of her, but she
got up and went.
*' You play the piano for three or four hours,"
he said, following her; "then you sit with your
mother, and there is no possibility of speaking to
you. Give me a quarter of an hour at least, I be-
Autumn was approaching, and it was quiet and
melancholy in the old garden; the dark leaves lay
thick in the walks. It was already beginning to
get dark early.
" I haven't seen you for a whole week," Startsev
went on, " and if you only knew what suffering it
is ! Let us sit down. Listen to me."
They had a favourite place in the garden; a seat
under an old spreading maple. And now they sat
down on this seat.
" What do you want? " said Ekaterina Ivanovna
drily, in a matter-of-fact tone.
" I have not seen you for a whole week; I have
not heard you for so long. I long passionately,
I thirst for your voice. Speak."
She fascinated him by her freshness, the naive
expression of her eyes and cheeks. Even in the way
her dress hung on her, he saw something extraor-
dinarily charming, touching in its simplicity and
74 The Tales of Chekhov
naive grace; and at the same time, in spite of this
naivete, she seemed to him intelligent and developed
beyond her years. He could talk with her about
literature, about art, about anything he liked; could
complain to her of life, of people, though it some-
times happened in the middle of serious conversa-
tion she would laugh inappropriately or run away
into the house. Like almost all girls of her neigh-
bourhood, she had read a great deal (as a rule,
people read very little in S , and at the lending
library they said if it were not for the girls and the
young Jews, they might as well shut up the library).
This afforded Startsev infinite delight; he used to
ask her eagerly every time what she had been read-
ing the last few days, and listened enthralled while
she told him.
" What have you been reading this week since
I saw you last?'* he asked now. " Do please tell
" I have been reading Pisemsky.'*
*' * A Thousand Souls,' " answered Kitten. " And
what a funny name Pisemsky had — Alexey Feo-
'^ Where are you going?" cried Startsev in
horror, as she suddenly got up and walked towards
the house. " I must talk to you; I want to explain
myself. . . . Stay with me just five minutes, I
supplicate you ! "
She stopped as though she wanted to say some-
thing, then awkwardly thrust a note into his hand,
ran home and sat down to the piano again.
" Be in the cemetery," Startsev read, " at eleven
o'clock to-night, near the tomb of Demetti."
" Well, that's not at all clever," he thought,
coming to himself. " Why the cemetery? What
It was clear: Kitten was playing a prank. Who
would seriously dream of making an appointment
at night In the cemetery far out of the town, when
It might have been arranged in the street or In the
town gardens? And was it In keeping with him —
a district doctor, an intelligent, staid man — to be
sighing, receiving notes, to hang about cemeteries,
to do silly things that even schoolboys think ridicu-
lous nowadays? What would this romance lead
to? What would his colleagues say when they
heard of it? Such were Startsev's reflections as he
wandered round the tables at the club, and at half-
past ten he suddenly set off for the cemetery.
By now he had his own pair of horses, and a
coachman called Pantelelmon, in a velvet waist-
coat. The moon was shining. It was still warm,
warm as It is in autumn. Dogs were howling in
the suburb near the slaughter-house. Startsev left
his horses In one of the side-streets at the end of
the town, and walked on foot to the cemetery.
" We all have our oddities," he thought. " Kit-
ten Is odd, too; and — who knows? — perhaps she
is not joking, perhaps she will come "; and he aban-
doned himself to this faint, vain hope, and It In-
He walked for half a mile through the fields;
the cemetery showed as a dark streak in the dis-
The Tales of Chekhov
tance, like a forest or a big garden. The wall of
white stone came into sight, the gate. ... In the
moonlight he could read on the gate: " The hour
Cometh." Startsev went in at the little gate, and
before anything else he saw the white crosses and
monuments on both sides of the broad avenue, and
the black shadows of them and the poplars; and for
a long way round it was all white and black, and the
slumbering trees bowed their branches over the
white stones. It seemed as though it were lighter
here than in the fields; the maple-leaves stood out
sharply like paws on the yellow sand of the avenue
and on the stones, and the inscriptions on the tombs
could be clearly read. For the first moments Start-
sev was struck now by what he saw for the first time
in his life, and what he would probably never see
again; a world not like anything else, a world In
which the moonlight was as soft and beautiful, as
though slumbering here in Its cradle, where there
was no life, none whatever; but in every dark poplar,
in every tomb, there was felt the presence of a mys-
tery that promised a life peaceful, beautiful, eternal.
The stones and faded flowers, together with the
autumn scent of the leaves, all told of forgiveness,
melancholy, and peace.
All was silence around; the stars looked down
from the sky in the profound stillness, and Start-
sev's footsteps sounded loud and out of place, and
only when the church clock began striking and he
imagined himself dead, buried there for ever, he
felt as though some one were looking at him, and
for a moment he thought that It was not peace and
tranquillity, but stifled despair, the dumb dreariness
of non-existence. . . .
Demetti's tomb was in the form of a shrine with
an angel at the top. The Italian opera had once
visited S and one of the singers had died; she
had been buried here, and this monument put up
to her. No one in the town remembered her, but
the lamp at the entrance reflected the moonlight, and
looked as though it were burning.
There was no one, and, indeed, who would come
here at midnight? But Startsev waited, and as
though the moonlight warmed his passion, he waited
passionately, and, in imagination, pictured kisses and
embraces. He sat near the monument for half an
hour, then paced up and down the side avenues, with
his hat in his hand, waiting and thinking of the many
women and girls buried in these tombs who had been
beautiful and fascinating, who had loved, at night
burned with passion, yielding themselves to caresses.
How wickedly Mother Nature jested at man's ex-
pense, after all! How humiliating it was to recog-
nise it !
Startsev thought this, and at the same time he
wanted to cry out that he wanted love, that he was
eager for it at all costs. To his eyes they were not
slabs of marble, but fair white bodies in the moon-
light; he saw shapes hiding bashfully in the shadows
of the trees, felt their warmth, and the languor was
oppressive. . . .
And as though a curtain were lowered, the moon
went behind a cloud, and suddenly all was darkness.
Startsev could scarcely find the gate — by now it
78 The Tales of Chekhov
was as dark as It Is on an autumn night. Then he
wandered about for an hour and a half, looking for
the side-street In which he had left his horses.
''I am tired; I can scarcely stand on my legs,"
he said to Pantelelmon.
And settling himself with relief In his carriage,
he thought: '' Och! I ought not to get fat! "
The following evening he went to the Turkins'
to make an offer. But It turned out to be an In-
convenient moment, as Ekaterina Ivanovna was In
her own room having her hair done by a hair-dresser.
She was getting ready to go to a dance at the club.
He had to sit a long time again in the dining-
room drinking tea. Ivan Petrovitch, seeing that
his visitor was bored and preoccupied, drew some
notes out of his waistcoat pocket, read a funny let-
ter from a German steward, saying that all the
ironmongery was ruined and the plasticity was peel-
ing off the walls.
" I expect they will give a decent dowry," thought
Startsev, listening absent-mindedly.
After a sleepless night, he found himself in a
state of stupefaction, as though he had been given
something sweet and soporific to drink; there was
fog in his soul, but joy and warmth, and at the same
time a sort of cold, heavy fragment of his brain
*' Stop before it Is too late ! Is she the match for
you? She Is spoilt, whimsical, sleeps till two o'clock
in the afternoon, while you are a deacon's son, a
district doctor. . . ."
"What of it?" he thought. ''I don't care."
" Besides, if you marry her," the fragment went
on, " then her relations will make you give up the
district work and live in the town."
" After all," he thought, " if it must be the town,
the town it must be. They will give a dowry; we
can establish ourselves suitably."
At last Ekaterina Ivanovna came In, dressed for
the ball, with a low neck, looking fresh and pretty;
and Startsev admired her so much, and went into
such ecstasies, that he could say nothing, but simply
stared at her and laughed.
She began saying good-bye, and he — he had no
reason for staying now — got up, saying that It was
time for him to go home; his patients were waiting
*' Well, there's no help for that," said Ivan
Petrovitch. " Go, and you might take Kitten to
the club on the way."
It was spotting with rain; It was very dark, and
they could only tell where the horses were by
Pantelelmon's husky cough. The hood of the
carriage was put up.
" I stand upright; you lie down right; he lies all
right," said Ivan Petrovitch as he put his daughter
into the carriage.
They drove off.
" I was at the cemetery yesterday," Startsev be-
gan. *' How ungenerous and merciless It was on
your part! ..."
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82 The Tales of Chekhov
was a little ashamed and his vanity was wounded —
he had not expected a refusal — and could not be-
lieve that all his dreams, his hopes and yearnings,
had led him up to such a stupid end, just as in some
little play at an amateur performance, and he was
sorry for his feeling, for that love of his, so sorry
that he felt as though he could have burst into sobs
or have violently belaboured Panteleimon's broad
back with his umbrella.
For three days he could not get on with anything,
he could not eat nor sleep; but w^hen the news
reached him that Ekaterina Ivanovna had gone
away to Moscow to enter the Conservatoire, he
grew calmer and lived as before.
Afterwards, remembering sometimes how he had
wandered about the cemetery or how he had driven
all over the town to get a dress suit, he stretched
lazily and said:
" What a lot of trouble, though! "
F^our years had passed. Startsev already had a
large practice in the town. Every morning he
hurriedly saw his patients at Dyalizh, then he drove
in to see his town patients. By now he drove, not
with a pair, but with a team of three with bells on
them, and he returned home late at night. He had
grown broader and stouter, and was not very fond
of walking, as he was somewhat asthmatic. And
Panteleimon had grown stout, too, and the broader
he grew, the more mournfully he sighed and com-
plained of his hard luck: he was sick of driving!
Startsev used to visit various households and met
many people, but did not become intimate vi^ith any
one. The inhabitants irritated him by their con-
versation, their views of life, and even their appear-
ance. Experience taught him by degrees that while
he played cards or lunched with one of these people,
the man was a peaceable, friendly, and even intelli-
gent human being; that as soon as one talked of
anything not eatable, for instance, of politics or
science, he would be completely at a loss, or would
expound a philosophy so stupid and ill-natured that
there was nothing else to do but wave one's hand
in despair and go away. Even when Startsev tried
to talk to liberal citizens, saying, for instance, that
humanity, thank God, was progressing, and that one
day it would be possible to dispense with passports
and capital punishment, the liberal citizen would
look at him askance and ask him mistrustfully:
*' Then any one could murder any one he chose in the
open street?" And when, at tea or supper, Start-
sev observed in company that one should work, and
that one ought not to live without working, every
one took this as a reproach, and began to get angry
and argue aggressively. With all that, the inhabit-
ants did nothing, absolutely nothing, and took no
interest In anything, and It was quite impossible to
think of anything to say. And Startsev avoided
conversation, and confined himself to eating and
playing vint; and when there was a family festivity
in some household and he was invited to a meal,
then he sat and ate in silence, looking at his plate.
84 The Tales of Chekhov
And everything that was said at the time was un-
interesting, unjust, and stupid; he felt irritated and
disturbed, but held his tongue, and, because he sat
glumly silent and looked at his plate, he was nick-
named in the town " the haughty Pole," though he
never had been a Pole.
All such entertainments as theatres and concerts
he declined, but he played vint every evening for
three hours with enjoyment. He had another di-
version to which he took Imperceptibly, little by
little : in the evening he would take out of his pockets
the notes he had gained by his practice, and some-
times there were stuffed in his pockets notes — yel-
low and green, and smelling of scent and vinegar and
incense and fish oil — up to the value of seventy
roubles; and when they amounted to some hundreds
he took them to the Mutual Credit Bank and de-
posited the money there to his account.
He was only twice at the Turklns' In the course
of the four years after Ekaterlna Ivanovna had
gone away, on each occasion at the Invitation of
Vera losifovna, who was still undergoing treatment
for migraine. Every summer Ekaterlna Ivanovna
came to stay with her parents, but he did not once
see her; It somehow never happened.
But now four years had passed. One still, warm
morning a letter was brought to the hospital. Vera
losifovna wrote to Dmitri lonitch that she was miss-
ing him very much, and begged him to come and see
them, and to relieve her sufferings; and, by the way,
It was her birthday. Below was a postscript: *' I
join In mother's request. — K."
Startsev considered, and in the evening he went
to the Turkins'.
"How do you do, if you please?" Ivan Petro-
vltch met him, smiling with his eyes only. '^ Bong-
Vera loslfovna, white-haired and looking much
older, shook Startsev's hand, sighed affectedly, and
" You don't care to pay attentions to me, doctor.
You never come and see us; I am too old for you.
But now some one young has come; perhaps she will
be more fortunate."
And Kitten? She had grown thinner, paler, had
grow^n handsomer and more graceful; but now she
was Ekaterina Ivanovna, not Kitten; she had lost
the freshness and look of childish naivete. And in
her expression and manners there was something
new — guilty and diffident, as though she did not
feel herself at home here in the Turklns' house.
. " How many summers, how many winters! " she
said, giving Startsev her hand, and he could see that
her heart was beating with excitement; and looking
at him intently and curiously, she went on : " How
much stouter you are ! You look sunburnt and
more manly, but on the whole you have changed
Now, too, he thought her attractive, very attrac-
tive, but there was something lacking in her, or else
something superfluous — he could not himself have
said exactly what it was, but something prevented
him from feeling as before. He did not like her
pallor, her new expression, her faint smile, her voice,
86 The Tales of Chekhov
and soon afterwards he disliked her clothes, too,
the low chair in which she was sitting; he disliked
something in the past when he had almost married
her. He thought of his love, of the dreams and
the hopes which had troubled him four years before
— and he felt awkward.
They had tea with cakes. Then Vera losifovna
read aloud a novel; she read of things that never
happen in real life, and Startsev listened, looked at
her handsome grey head, and waited for her to
^' People are not stupid because they can't write
novels, but because they can't conceal it when they
do," he thought.
" Not badsome," said Ivan Petrovitch.
Then Ekaterina Ivanovna played long and noisily
on the piano, and when she finished she was pro-
fusely thanked and warmly praised.
" It's a good thing I did not marry her," thought
She looked at him, and evidently expected him to
ask her to go into the garden, but he remained
" Let us have a talk," she said, going up to him.
*' How are you getting on? What are you doing?
How are things? I have been thinking about you
all these days," she went on nervously. " I wanted
to write to you, wanted to come myself to see you
at Dyalizh. I quite made up my mind to go, but
afterwards I thought better of It. God knows what
your attitude is towards me now; I have been look-
ing forward to seeing you to-day with such emotion.
For goodness' sake let us go into the garden."
They went into the garden and sat down on the
seat under the old maple, just as they had done four
years before. It was dark.
"How are you getting on?" asked Ekaterina
"Oh, all right; I am jogging along," answered
And he could think of nothing more. iThey were
"I feel so excited!" said Ekaterina Ivanovna,
and she hid her face in her hands. " But don't
pay attention to it. I am so happy to be at home;
I am so glad to see every one. I can't get used to
it. So many memories ! I thought we should talk
without stopping till morning."
Now he saw her face near, her shining eyes, and
in the darkness she looked younger than in the room,
and even her old childish expression seemed to have
come back to her. And indeed she was looking at
him with naive curiosity, as though she wanted to
get a closer view and understanding of the man who
had loved her so ardently, with such tenderness, and
so unsuccessfully; her eyes thanked him for that
love. And he remembered all that had been, every
minute detail; how he had wandered about the ceme-
tery, how he had returned home in the morning ex-
hausted, and he suddenly felt sad and regretted the
past. A warmth began glowing in his heart.
" Do you remember how I took you to the dance
88 The Tales of Chekhov
at the club? " he asked. " It was dark and rainy
then. . . ."
The warmth was glowing now in his heart, and
he longed to talk, to rail at life. . . .
" Ech! " he said with a sigh. " You ask how I
am living. How do we live here? Why, not at
all. We grow old, we grow stout, we grow slack.
Day after day passes; life slips by without colour,
without expressions, without thoughts. ... In
the daytime working for gain, and in the evening
the club, the company of card-players, alcoholic,
raucous-voiced gentlemen whom I can't endure.
What is there nice in it? "
^' Well, you have work — a noble object in life.
You used to be so fond of talking of your hospital.
I was such a queer girl then; I imagined myself such
a great pianist. Nowadays all young ladies play
the piano, and I played, too, like everybody else,
and there was nothing special about me. I am just
such a pianist as my mother is an authoress. And
of course I didn't understand you then, but after-
wards in Moscow I often thought of you. I thought
of no one but you. What happiness to be a district
doctor; to help the suffering; to be serving the peo-
ple ! What happiness ! " Ekaterina Ivanovna re-
peated with enthusiasm. " When I thought of you
in Moscow, you seemed to me so ideal, so
lofty. . . ."
Startsev thought of the notes he used to take out
of his pockets in the evening with such pleasure,
and the glow in his heart was quenched.
He got up to go Into the house. She took his
" You are the best man I've known In my life,"
she went on. " We will see each other and talk,
won't we? Promise me. I am not a pianist; I
am not in error about myself now, and I will not
play before you or talk of music."
When they had gone Into the house, and when
Startsev saw in the lampHght her face, and her
sad, grateful, searching eyes fixed upon him, he felt
uneasy and thought again :
" It's a good thing I did not marry her then."
He began taking leave.
" You have no human right to go before supper,"
said Ivan Petrovitch as he saw him off. " It's ex-
tremely perpendicular on your part. Well, now,
perform ! " he added, addressing Pava in the hall.
Pava, no longer a boy, but a young man with
moustaches, threw himself into an attitude, flung up
his arm, and said in a tragic voice:
*' Unhappy woman, die ! "
All this Irritated Startsev. Getting Into his car-
riage, and looking at the dark house and garden
which had once been so precious and so dear, he
thought of everything at once — - Vera loslfovna's
novels and Kitten's noisy playing, and Ivan Petro-
vitch's jokes and Pava's tragic posturing, and thought
if the most talented people in the town were so futile,
what must the town be?
Three days later Pava brought a letter from
90 The Tales of Chekhov
*' You don't come and see us — why? " she wrote
to him. '' 1 am afraid that you have changed
towards us. I am afraid, and I am terrified at
the very thought of it. Reassure me; come and
tell me that everything is well.
" I must talk to you. — Your E. I."
He read this letter, thought a moment, and said
to Pava :
" Tell them, my good fellow, that I can't come
to-day; I am very busy. Say I will come in three
days or so."
But three days passed, a week passed; he still did
not go. Happening once to drive past the Turkins'
house, he thought he must go in, if only for a
moment, but on second thoughts . . . did not go
And he never went to the Turkins' again.
Several more years have passed. Startsev has
grown stouter still, has grown corpulent, breathes
heavily, and already walks with his head thrown
back. When stout and red in the face, he drives
with his bells and his team of three horses, and
Panteleimon, also stout and red in the face with his
thick beefy neck, sits on the box, holding his arms
stiffly out before him as though they were made of
wood, and shouts to those he meets: " Keep to the
ri-i-ight!" it is an impressive picture; one might
think it was not a mortal, but some heathen deity
In his chariot. He has an immense practice in the
town, no time to breathe, and already has an estate
and two houses in the town, and he is looking out
for a third more profitable; and when at the Mutual
Credit Bank he is told of a house that is for sale,
he goes to the house without ceremony, and, march-
ing through all the rooms, regardless of half-dressed
w^omen and children who gaze at him in amazement
and alarm, he prods at the doors with his stick, and
" Is that the study? Is that a bedroom? And
what's here? "
And as he does so he breathes heavily and wipes
the sweat from his brow.
He has a great deal to do, but still he does not
give up his work as district doctor ; he is greedy for
gain, and he tries to be in all places at once. At
Dyalizh and in the town he is called simply
"lonitch": ^' Where is lonitch off to?" or
*' Should not we call in lonitch to a consultation? "
Probably because his throat is covered with rolls
of fat, his voice has changed; it has become thin
and sharp. His temper has changed, too: he has
grown ill-humoured and Irritable. When he sees
his patients he Is usually out of temper; he Impa-
tiently taps the floor with his stick, and shouts in
his disagreeable voice:
*' Be so good as to confine yourself to answering
my questions! Don't talk so much! "
He Is solitary. He leads a dreary life; nothing
During all the years he had lived at Dyalizh his
92 The Tales of Chekhov
love for Kitten had been his one joy, and probably
his last. In the evenings he plays 'vint at the club,
and then sits alone at a big table and has supper.
Ivan, the oldest and most respectable of the waiters,
serves him, hands him Lafitte No. 17, and every one
at the club — the members of the committee, the
cook and waiters — know what he likes and what
he doesn't like and do their very utmost to satisfy
him, or else he is sure to fly into a rage and bang
on the floor with his stick.
As he eats his supper, he turns round from time
to time and puts in his spoke in some conversa-
" What are you talking about? Eh? Whom? "
And when at a neighbouring table there is talk
of the Turklns, he asks:
"What Turklns are you speaking of? Do you
mean the people whose daughter plays on the
That is all that can be said about him.
And the Turklns? Ivan Petrovitch has grown
no older; he is not changed in the least, and still
makes jokes and tells anecdotes as of old. Vera
loslfovna still reads her novels aloud to her visitors
with eagerness and touching simplicity. And Kitten
plays the piano for four hours every day. She has
grown visibly older, is constantly ailing, and every
autumn goes to the Crimea with her mother. When
Ivan Petrovitch sees them off at the station, he wipes
his tears as the train starts, and shouts:
" Good-bye, if you please."
And he waves his handkerchief.
THE HEAD OF THE FAMILY
THE HEAD OF THE FAMILY
It is, as a rule, after losing heavily at cards or
after a drinking-bout when an attack of dyspepsia
is setting in that Stepan Stepanitch Zhilin wakes
up in an exceptionally gloomy frame of mind. He
looks sour, rumpled, and dishevelled; there is an ex-
pression of displeasure on his grey face, as though
he were offended or disgusted by something. He
dresses slowly, sips his Vichy water deliberately, and
begins walking about the rooms.
** I should like to know what b-b-beast comes in
here and does not shut the door!" he grumbles
angrily, wrapping his dressing-gown about him and
spitting loudly. *' Take away that paper! Why is
it lying about here? We keep twenty servants, and
the place is more untidy than a pot-house. Who
was that ringing? Who the devil is that?"
" That's Anfissa, the midwife who brought our
Fedya into the world," answers his wife.
" Always hanging about . . . these cadging
*^ There's no making you out, Stepan Stepanitch.
You asked her yourself, and now you scold."
" I am not scolding; I am speaking. You might
find something to do, my dear, instead of sitting
with your hands in your lap trying to pick a quarrel.
Upon my word, women are beyond my comprehen-
96 The Tales of Chekhov
sion ! Beyond my comprehension ! How can they
waste whole days doing nothing? A man works
like an ox, like a b-beast, while his wife, the partner
of his life, sits like a pretty doll, sits and does noth-
ing but watch for an opportunity to quarrel with her
husband by way of diversion. It's time to drop
these schoolgirlish ways, my dear. You are not a
schoolgirl, not a young lady; you are a wife and
mother! You turn away? Aha! It's not agree-
able to listen to the bitter truth ! "
" It's strange that you only speak the bitter truth
when your liver is out of order."
"That's right; get up a scene."
" Have you been out late? Or playing cards? "
"What if I have? Is that anybody's business?
Am I obliged to give an account of my doings to
any one? It's my own money I lose, I suppose?
What I spend as well as what is spent in this house
belongs to me — me. Do you hear? To me! "
And so on, all in the same style. But at no other
time is Stepan Stepanitch so reasonable, virtuous,
stern or just as at dinner, when all his household
are sitting about him. It usually begins with the
soup. After swallowing the first spoonful Zhilin
suddenly frowns and puts down his spoon.
"Damn it all!" he mutters; "I shall have to
dine at a restaurant, I suppose."
" What's wrong? " asks his wife anxiously.
" Isn't the soup good?"
" One must have the taste of a pig to eat hog-
wash like that! There's too much salt in it; it
smells of dirty rags . . . more like bugs than
The Head of the Family 97
onions. . . . It's simply revolting, Anfissa Ivan-
ovna," he says, addressing the midwife. " Every
day I give no end of money for housekeeping. . . .
I deny myself everything, and this Is what they
provide for my dinner ! I suppose they want me
to give up the office and go Into the kitchen to do
the cooking myself."
" The soup is very good to-day," the governess
" Oh, you think so? " says Zhilin, looking at her
angrily from under his eyelids. " Every one to his
taste, of course. It must be confessed our tastes
are very different, Varvara Vassilyevna. You, for
instance, are satisfied with the behaviour of this
boy" (Zhilin with a tragic gesture points to his son
Fedya) ; "you are delighted with him, while I . . .
I am disgusted. Yes! "
Fedya, a boy of seven with a pale, sickly face,
leaves off eating and drops his eyes. His face
grows paler still.
" Yes, you are delighted, and I am disgusted.
Which of us Is right, I cannot say, but I venture
to think as his father, I know my own son better
than you do. Look how he Is sitting! Is that
the way decently brought up children sit? Sit
Fedya tilts his chin up, cranes his neck, and
fancies that he is holding himself better. Tears
come into his eyes.
''Eat your dinner! Hold your spoon properly!
You wait, ril show you, you horrid boy! Don't
dare to whimper! Look straight at me! "
98 The Tales of Chekhov
Fedya tries to look straight at him, but his face
Is quivering and his eyes fill with tears.
"A-ah! . . . you cry? You are naughty and
then you cry? Go and stand In the corner, you
'' But ... let him have his dinner first/' his
" No dinner for him ! Such bla . . . such ras-
cals don't deserve dinner ! "
Fedya, wincing and quivering all over, creeps
down from his chair and goes Into the corner.
" You won't get of^ with that! " his parent per-
sists. *' If nobody else cares to look after your
bringing up, so be it; I must begin. ... I won't
let you be naughty and cry at dinner, my lad!
Idiot! You must do your duty! Do you under-
stand? Do your duty! Your father works and
you must work, too ! No one must eat the bread
of idleness ! You must be a man ! A m-man ! "
" For God's sake, leave ofT," says his wife in
French. " Don't nag at us before outsiders, at
least. . . . The old woman is all ears; and now,
thanks to her, all the town will hear of It."
*' I am not afraid of outsiders," answers Zhilln
in Russian. *' Anfissa Ivanovna sees that I am
speaking the truth. Why, do you think I ought
to be pleased with the boy? Do you know what
he costs me? Do you know, you nasty boy, what
you cost me? Or do you imagine that I coin money,
that I get It for nothing? Don't howl ! Hold your
tongue! Do you hear what I say? Do you want
me to whip you, you young rufHan? "
The Head of tb.e: F^^mily;; :•. ; : .'99
Fedya wails aloud and begins to sob.
" This Is insufferable," says his mother, getting
up from the table and flinging down her dinner-
napkin. " You never let us have dinner in peace !
Your bread sticks in my throat."
And putting her handkerchief to her eyes, she
walks out of the dining-room.
*' Now she is offended," grumbles Zhilin, with
a forced smile. *' She's been spoilt. . . . That's
how it is, Anfissa Ivanovna; no one likes to hear
the truth nowadays. . . . It's all my fault, it
Several minutes of silence follow. Zhilin looks
round at the plates, and noticing that no one has
yet touched their soup, heaves a deep sigh, and stares
at the flushed and uneasy face of the governess.
^* Why don't you eat, Varvara Vassilyevna ? " he
asks. "Offended, I suppose? I see. . . . You
don't like to be told the truth. You must forgive
me, It's my nature; I can't be a hypocrite. ... I
always blurt out the plain truth " (a sigh). " But
I notice that my presence is unwelcome. No one
can eat or talk while I am here. . . . Well, you
should have told me, and I would have gone away.
. . . I will go."
Zhilin gets up and walks with dignity to the door.
x\s he passes the weeping Fedya he stops.
" After all that has passed here, you are free,"
he says to Fedya, throwing back his head with dig-
nity. " I won't meddle In your bringing up again.
I wash my hands of it ! I humbly apologise that
as a father, from a sincere desire for your welfare,
iQpi i/; The Tales .of Chekhov
I have disturbed you and your mentors. At the
same time, once for all I disclaim all responsibility
for your future. . . ."
Fedya wails and sobs more loudly than ever.
Zhilin turns with dignity to the door and departs
to his bedroom.
When he wakes from his after-dinner nap he be-
gins to feel the stings of conscience. He is ashamed
to face his wife, his son, Anfissa Ivanovna, and even
feels very wretched when he recalls the scene at
dinner, but his amour-propre is too much for him;
he has not the manliness to be frank, and he goes
on sulking and grumbling.
Waking up next morning, he feels in excellent
spirits, and whistles gaily as he washes. Going into
the dining-room to breakfast, he finds there Fedya,
who, at the sight of his father, gets up and looks at
"Well, young man?" Zhilin greets him good-
humouredly, sitting down to the table. " What
have you got to tell me, young man? Are you all
right? Well, come, chubby; give your father a
With a pale, grave face Fedya goes up to his
father and touches his cheek with his quivering lips,
then walks away and sits down in his place without
THE BLACK MONK
THE BLACK MONK
Andrey Vassilitch Kovrin, who held a master's
degree at the University, had exhausted himself,
and had upset his nerves. He did not send for a
doctor, but casually, over a bottle of wine, he spoke
to a friend who was a doctor, and the latter advised
him to spend the spring and summer in the country.
Very opportunely a long letter came from Tanya
Pesotsky, who asked him to come and stay with them
at Borissovka. And he made up his mind that he
really must go.
To begin with — that was in April — he went to
his own home, Kovrinka, and there spent three weeks
in solitude ; then, as soon as the roads were in good
condition, he set off, driving in a carriage, to visit
Pesotsky, his former guardian, who had brought him
up, and was a horticulturist well known all over
Russia. The distance from Kovrinka to Borissovka
was reckoned only a little over fifty miles. To drive
along a soft road in May in a comfortable carriage
with springs was a real pleasure.
Pesotsky had an immense house with columns and
lions, off which the stucco was peeling, and with a
footman in swallow-tails at the entrance. The old
park, laid out in the English style, gloomy and severe,
104 The Tales of Chekhov
stretched for almost three-quarters of a mile to the
river, and there ended in a steep, precipitous clay
bank, where pines grew with bare roots that looked
like shaggy paws; the water shone below with an
unfriendly gleam, and the peewits flew up with a
plaintive cry, and there one always felt that one must
sit down and write a ballad. But near the house
itself, in the courtyard and orchard, which together
with the nurseries covered ninety acres, it was all
life and gaiety even in bad weather. Such marvel-
lous roses, lilies, camellias; such tulips of all possible
shades, from glistening white to sooty black — such
a wealth of flowers, in fact, Kovrin had never seen
anywhere as at Pesotsky's. It was only the begin-
ning of spring, and the real glory of the flower-beds
was still hidden away in the hot-houses. But even
the flowers along the avenues, and here and there
in the flower-beds, were enough to make one feel,
as one walked about the garden, as though one were
in a realm of tender colours, especially in the early
morning when the dew was glistening on every petal.
What was the decorative part of the garden, and
what Pesotsky contemptuously spoke of as_rubbish,
had at one time in his childhood given Kovrin an im-
pression of fairyland.
Every sort of caprice, of elaborate monstrosity
and mockery at Nature v/as here. There were
espaliers of fruit-trees, a pear-tree in the shape of
a pyramidal poplar, spherical oaks and lime-trees,
an apple-tree in the shape of an umbrella, plum-trees
trained into arches, crests, candelabra, and even into
the number 1862 — the year when Pesotsky first
The Black Monk 105
took up horticulture. One came across, too, lovely,
graceful trees with strong, straight stems like palms,
and it was only by looking intently that one could
recognise these trees as gooseberries or currants.
But what made the garden most cheerful and gave
it a lively air, was the continual coming and going
in it, from early morning till evening; people with
wheelbarrows, shovels, and watering-cans swarmed
round the trees and bushes, in the avenues and the
flower-beds, like ants. . . .
Kovrin arrived at Pesotsky's at ten o'clock in the
evening. He found Tanya and her father, Yegor
Semyonitch, in great anxiety. The clear starlight
sky and the thermometer foretold a frost towards
morning, and meanwhile Ivan Karlitch, the gardener,
had gone to the town, and they had no one to rely
upon. At supper they talked of nothing but the
morning frost, and it was settled that Tanya should
not go to bed, and between twelve and one should
walk through the garden, and see that everything
was done properly, and Yegor Semyonitch should
get up at three o'clock or even earlier.
Kovrin sat with Tanya all the evening, and after
midnight went out with her into the garden. It was
cold. There was a strong smell of burning already
in the garden. In the big orchard, which was called
the commercial garden, and which brought Yegor
Semyonitch several thousand clear profit, a thick,
black, acrid smoke was creeping over the ground
and, curling round the trees, was saving those thou-
sands from the frost. Here the trees were arranged
as on a chessboard, in straight and regular rows like
]o6 The Tales of Chekhov
ranks of soldiers, and this severe pedantic regularity,
and the fact that all the trees were of the same size,
and had tops and trunks all exactly alike, made them
look monotonous and even dreary. Kovrin and
Tanya walked along the rows where fires of dung,
straw, and all sorts of refuse were smouldering, and
from time to time they were met by labourers who
wandered in the smoke like shadows. The only
trees in flower were the cherries, plums, and certain
sorts of apples, but the whole garden was plunged
in smoke, and it was only near the nurseries that
Kovrin could breathe freely.
" Even as a child I used to sneeze from the smoke
here,'' he said, shrugging his shoulders, " but to this
day I don't understand how smoke can keep off
" Smoke takes the place of clouds when there are
none . . ." answered Tanya.
" And what do you want clouds for? "
** In overcast and cloudy weather there is no
" You don't say so."
He laughed and took her arm. Her broad, very
earnest face, chilled with the frost, with her deli-
cate black eyebrows, the turned-up collar of her coat,
which prevented her moving her head freely, and
the whole of her thin, graceful figure, with her skirts
tucked up on account of the dew, touched him.
*' Good heavens! she is grown up," he said.
** When I went away from here last, five years ago,
you were still a child. You were such a thin, long-
legged creature, with your hair hanging on your
The Black Monk 107
shoulders; you used to wear short frocks, and I used
to tease you, caUIng you a heron. . . . What time
"Yes, five years!" sighed Tanya. "Much
water has flowed since then. Tell me, Andryusha,
honestly," she began eagerly, looking him in the
face: " do you f^pl s;f range with iis now? But why
do I ask you? You are a man, you live your own
interesting life, you are somebody. . . . To grow
apart is so natural! But however that may be,
Andryusha, I want you to think of us as your people.
We have a right to that."
" I do, Tanya."
" On your word of honour? "
" Yes, on my word of honour."
" You were surprised this evening that we have
so many of your photographs. You know my
father adores you. Sometimes it seems to me that
he loves you more than he does me. He is proud
of you. You are a clever, extraordinary man, you
have made a brilliant career for yourself, and he Is
persuaded that you have turned out like this because
he brought you up. I don't try to prevent him from
thinking so. Let him."
Dawn was already beginning, and that was espe-
cially perceptible from the distinctness with which
the coils of smoke and the tops of the trees began to
stand out in the air.
" It's time we were asleep, though," said Tanya,
*' and It's cold, too." She took his arm. " Thank
you for coming, Andryusha. We have only unin-
teresting acquaintances, and not many of them. We
io8 The Tales of Chekhov
have only the garden, the garden, the garden, and
nothing else. Standards, half-standards," she
laughed. '' Aports, Reinettes, Borovinkas, budded
stocks, grafted stocks. . . . All, all our life has
gone into the garden. I never even dream of any-
thing but apples and pears. Of course, it is very
nice and useful, but sometimes one longs for some-
thing else for variety. I remember that when you
used to come to us for the summer holidays, or
simply a visit, it always seemed to be fresher and
brighter in the house, as though the covers had been
taken off the lustres and the furniture. I was only
a little girl then, but yet I understood it."
She talked a long while and with great feeling.
For some reason the idea came into his head that
in the course of the summer he might grow fond
of this little, weak, talkative creature, might be car-
ried away and fall in love; in their position it was
so possible and natural! This thought touched and
amused him ; he bent down to her sweet, preoccupied
face and hummed softly:
" ' Onyegin, I won't conceal it;
I madly love Tatiana. . . .' "
By the time they reached the house, Yegor Sem-
yonitch had got up. Kovrin did not feel sleepy; he
talked to the old man and went to the garden with
him. Yegor Semyonitch was a tall, broad-shoul-
dered, corpulent man, and he suffered from asthma,
yet he walked so fast that it was hard work to hurry
after him. He had an extremely preoccupied air;
he was always hurrying somewhere, with an expres-
The Black Monk 109
slon that suggested that if he were one minute late
all would be ruined !
" Here is a business, brother . . ." he began,
standing still to take breath. ** On the surface of
the ground, as you see, is frost; but if you raise the
thermometer on a stick fourteen feet above the
ground, there it is warm. . . . Why is that? "
" I really don't know," said Kovrin, and he
"H'm! . . . One can't know everything, of
course. . . . However large the intellect may be,
you can't find room for everything in it. I suppose
you still go in chiefly for philosophy? "
"Yes, I lecture in psychology; I am working at
philosophy in general."
" And it does not bore you? "
** On the contrary, it's all I live for." - •
'* Well, God bless you! . . ."said Yegor Sem-
yonitch, meditatively stroking his grey whiskers.
"God bless you! ... I am delighted about you
. . . delighted, my boy. . . ."
But suddenly he listened, and, with a terrible face,
ran off and quickly disappeared behind the trees in
a cloud of smoke.
" Who tied this horse to an apple-tree? " Kovrin (I
heard his despairing, heart-rending cry. "Who is;-
the low scoundrel who has dared to tie this horse to
an apple-tree? My God, my God! They have
ruined everything; they have spoilt everything; they
have done everything filthy, horrible, and abominable.
The orchard's done for, the orchard's ruined. My
no The Tales of Chekhov
When he came back to Kovrin, his face looked
exhausted and mortified.
*' What is one to do with these accursed people? "
he said in a tearful voice, flinging up his hands.
" Styopka was carting dung at night, and tied the
horse to an apple-tree ! He twisted the reins round
it, the rascal, as tightly as he could, so that the bark
is rubbed off in three places. What do you think
of that ! I spoke to him and he stands like a post
and only blinks his eyes. Hanging is too good for
Growing calmer, he embraced Kovrin and kissed
him on the cheek.
" Well, God bless you ! . . . God bless you !
. . ." he muttered. " I am very glad you have
come. Unutterably glad. . . . Thank you."
Then, with the same rapid step and preoccupied
face, he made the round of the whole garden, and
showed his former ward all his greenhouses and
hot-houses, his covered-in garden, and two apiaries
which he called the marvel of our century.
While they were walking the sun rose, flooding
the garden with brilliant light. It grew warm.
Foreseeing a long, bright, cheerful day, Kovrin
recollected that it was only the beginning of May,
and that he had before him a whole summer as
bright, cheerful, and long; and suddenly there stirred
in his bosom a joyous, youthful feeling, such as he
used to experience in his childhood, running about
in that garden. And he hugged the old man and
kissed him affcctiqnatelv. Both of them, feeling
touched, went indoors and drank tea out of old-
The Black Monk in
fashioned china cups, with cream and satlsfyuig
krendels made with milk and eggs; and these trifles
reminded Kovrin again of his childhood and boy-
hood. The delightful present was blended with the
impressions of the past that stirred within him; there
was a tightness at his heart; yet he was happy.
He waited till Tanya was awake and had coffee
with her, went for a walk, then went to his room
and sat down to work. He read attentively, making
notes, and from time to time raised his eyes to look
out at the open windows or at the fresh, still dewy
flowers in the vases on the table; and again he
dropped his eyes to his book, and it seemed to him as
though every vein in his body was quivering and
fluttering with pleasure.
In the country he led just as nervous and restless
a life as in town. He read and wrote a great deal,
he studied Italian, and when he was out for a walk.,
thought with pleasure that he would soon sit down
to work again. He slept so little that every one
wondered at him; if he accidently dozed for half
an hour in the daytime, he would lie awake all night,
and, after a sleepless night, would feel cheerful and
vigorous as though nothing had happened.
He talked a great deal, drank wine, and smoked
expensive cigars. Very often, almost every day,
young ladies of neighbouring families would come
to the Pesotskys', and would sing and play the piano
with Tanya; sometimes a young neighbour who was
112 The Tales of Chekhov
a good violinist would come, too. Kovrin listened
with eagerness to the music and singing, and was
exhausted by it, and this showed itself by his eyes
closing and his head falling to one side.
One day he was sitting on the balcony after
evening tea, reading. At the same time, in the
drawing-room, Tanya taking soprano, one of the
young ladies a contralto, and the young man with
his violin, were practising a well-known serenade
of Braga's. Kovrin listened to the words — they
were "Russian — and could not understand their
meaning. At last, leaving his book and listening
attentively, he understood: a maiden, full of sick
fancies, heard one night in "her garden mysterious
sounds, so strange and lovely that she was obliged
to recognise them as .a holy harmony which is un-
intelligible to us mortals, and so flies Back to heaven.;
Kovrin's eyes began to close. He got up, and in
exhaustion walked up and down the drawing-room,
and then the dining-room. When the singing was
over he took Tanya's arm, and with her went out on
" I have been all day thinking of a legend," he
said. " I don't remember whether"'! have read it
somewhere or heard it, but it is a strange and almost
grotesque legend. To begin with, it is somewhat
obscure. A tholisand years ago a monk, dressed in
black, wandered about the desert, somewhere in
Syria or Arabia. . . . Some miles from where he
was, some fisherman saw another black monk, who
was moving slowly over the surface of a lake. This
second monk was a mirage. Now forget all the
The Black Monk 113
laws of optics, which the legend does not recognise,
and listen to the rest. From that mirage there was
cast another mirage, then from that other a third,
so that the image of the black monk began to be re-
peated endlessly frpm one layer of the atmosphere
to another. So that he was seen at one time in
Africa, at another in Spain, then in Italy, then in the
Far North. . . . Then he passed out of the atmo-
sphere of the earth, and now he is wandering all over
the universe, still never coming into conditions in
which he might disappear. Possibly he may be seen
now in Mars or in some star of the Southern Cross.
But, my dear, the real point on which the whole
legend hangs lies in the fact that, exactly a thousand
years from the day when the monk walked in the
desert, the mirage will return^ to _the atmosphere
of the earth again and will appear to men. And it
seems that the thousand years is almost up. . . .
According to the legend, we may look out for the
black monk to-day or to-morrow."
*' A queer mirage," said Tanya, who did not like
'' But the most wonderful part of it all," laughed
Kovrin, " is that I simply cannot recall where I
got this legend from. Have I read it somewhere?
Have I heard It? Or perhaps I dreamed of the
black monk. I swear I don't remember. But the
legend interests me. I have been thinking about
it all day."
Letting Tanya go back to her visitors, he went
out of the house, and, lost in meditation, walked
by the flower-beds. The sun was already setting.
114 The Tales of Chekhov
The flowers, having just been watered, gave forth
a damp, irritating fragrance. Indoors they began
singing again, and in the distance the violin had
the effect of a human voice. Kovrin, racking his
brains to remember where he had read or heard
the legend, turned slowly towards the park, and un-
consciously went as far as the river. By a little
path that ran along the steep bank, between the bare
roots, he went down to the water, disturbed the
peewits there and frightened two ducks. The last
rays of the setting sun still threw light here and
there on the gloomy pines, but it was quite dark on
the surface of the river. Kovrin crossed to the
other side by the narrow bridge. Before him lay
a wide field covered with young rye not yet in blos-
som. There was no living habitation, no living soul
in the distance, and It seemed as though the little
path, if one went along it, would take one to the
unknown, mysterious place where the sun had just
gone down, and where the evening glow was flaming
in Immensity and splendour.
" How open, how free, how still it is here ! "
thought Kovrin, walking along the path. " And it
feels as though all the world were watching me,
hiding and waiting for me to understand It. . . ."
But then waves began running across the rye, and
a light evening breeze softly touched his uncovered
head. A minute later there was another gust of
wind, but stronger — the rye began rustling, and he
heard behind him the hollow murmur of the pines.
Ko\Tln stood still in amazement. From the horizon
there rose up to the sky, like a whirlwind or a water-
The Black Monk 115
spout, a tall black column. Its outline was indistinct,
but from the first instant it could be seen that it was
not standing still, but moving with fearful rapidity,
moving straight towards Kovrin, and the nearer it
came the smaller and the more distinct it was. Kov-
rin moved aside into the rye to make way for it,
and only just had time to do so.
A monk, dressed in black, with a grey head and
black eyebrows, his arms crossed over his breast,
floated by him. . . . His bare feet did not touch
the earth. After he had floated twenty feet beyond
him, he looked round at Kovrin, and nodded to him
with a friendly but sly smile. But what a pale, fear-
fully pale, thin face ! Beginning to grow larger
again, he flew across the river, collided noiselessly
with the clay bank and pines, and passing through
them, vanished like smoke.
*' Why, you see," muttered Kovrin, *' there must
be truth in the legend."
Without trying to explain to himself the strange
apparition, glad that he had succeeded in seeing so
near and so distinctly, not only the monk's black
garments, but even his face and eyes, agreeably ex-
cited, he went back to the house.
In the park and in the garden people were moving
about quietly, in the house they were playing — so
he alone had seen the monk. He had an intense
desire to tell Tanya and Yegor Semyonitch, but he
reflected that they would certainly think his words
the ravings of delirium, and that would frighten
them; he had better say nothing.
He laughed aloud, sang, and danced the mazurka;
ii6 The Tales of Chekhov
he was in high spirits, and all of them, the visitors
and Tanya, thought he had a peculiar look, radiant
and inspired, and that he was very interesting.
After supper, when the visitors had gone, he went
to his room and lay down on the sofa : he wanted
to think about the monk. But a minute later Tanya
*' Here, Andryusha; read father's articles," she
said, giving him a bundle of pamphlets and proofs.
'^ They are splendid articles. He writes capitally."
"Capitally, Indeed!" said Yegor Semyonitch,
following her and smiling constrainedly; he was
ashamed. " Don't listen to her, please; don't read
them! Though, if you want to go to sleep, read
them by all means; they are a fine soporific."
" I think they are splendid articles," said Tanya,
with deep conviction. " You read them, Andryusha,
and persuade father to write oftener. He could
write a complete manual of horticulture."
Yegor Semyonitch gave a forced laugh, blushed,
and began uttering the phrases usually made use of
by an embarrassed author. At last he began to give
" In that case, begin wuth Gaucher's article and
these Russian articles," he muttered, turning over
the pamphlets with a trembling hand, " or else you
won't understand. Before you read my objections,
J you must know what I am objecting to. But it's
The Black Monk 117
all nonsense . . . tiresome stuff. Besides, I be-
lieve It's bedtime."
Tanya went away. Yegor Semyonitch sat down
on the sofa by Kovrin and heaved a deep sigh.
" Yes, my boy . . ." he began after a pause.
** That's how It Is, my dear lecturer. Here I write
articles, and take part in exhibitions, and receive
medals. . . . Pesotsky, they say, has apples the
size of a head, and Pesotsky, they say, has made
his fortune with his garden. In short, ' Kotcheby
Is rich and glorious.' But one asks oneself: ^hatjs_
It_a ll for ? The garden is certainly fine, a model.
It's not really a garden, but a regular Institution,
which Is of the greatest public Importance because
it marks, so to say, a new era In Russian agriculture
and Russian Industry. But, what's it for? What's
the object of It? " I, /
'^ Tte^iact speaks_for itself." '//^
" I do not mean m that sense. I meant to ask^
what will happe n to the garden when I die? In;
the condition In which you see It now. It would not
be maintained for one month without me. Th6
whole secret of success lies not In Its being a big
garden or a great number of labourers being em-
ployed in It, butjn the fact t hat I l ove the w ork.
Do you understandT^tdve it perhaps more than
myself. Look at me; I do everything myself. I
work from morning to night: I do all the grafting,
myself, the pruning myself, the planting myself. I
do It all myself: when any one helps me I am jealous
and irritable till I am rude. The whole secret lies
ii8 The Tales of Chekhov
in loving it — that is, in the sharp eye of the master;
yes, and in the master's hands, and in the feeling
that makes one, when one goes anywhere for an
hour's visit, sit, ill at ease, with one's heart far away,
afraid that something may have happened in the
i garden. But when I die, who will look after it?
Who will work? The gardener? The labourers?
Yes? But I tell you, my dear fellow, the worst
enemy in the garden is not a hare, not a cockchafer,
and not the frost, but any outside person."
"And Tanya?" asked Kovrin, laughing. "She
can't be more harmful than a hare? She loves the
work and understands it."
" Yes, she loves it and understands it. If after
my death the garden goes to her and she is the
mistress, of course nothing better could be wished.
But if, which God forbid, she should marry," Yegor
Semyonitch whispered, and looked with a frightened
look at Kovrin, " that's just it. If she marries and
children come, she will have no time to think about
the garden. What I fear most is: she will marry
, some fine gentleman, and he will be greedy, and he
\ will let the garden to people who will run it for profit,
A and everything will go to the devil the very first
) year ! In our work females are the scourge of
Yegor Semyonitch sighed and paused for a
"Perhaps it is egoism, but I tell you frankly:
I don't want Tanya to get married. I am afraid
of it! There is one young dandy comes to see us,
bringing his violin and scraping on it; I know Tanya
The Black Monk 119
will not marry him, I know it quite well; but I can't
bear to see him ! Altogether, my boy, I am very
queer. I know that."
Yegor Semyonltch got up and walked about the
room in excitement, and it was evident that he
wanted to say something very important, but could
not bring himself to it.
" I am very fond of you, and so I am going to
speak to you openly," he decided at last, thrusting
his hands Into his pockets. " I deal plainly with
certain delicate questions, and say exactly what I
think, and I cannot endure so-called hidden thoughts.
I will speak plainly : you are the only man to whom
I should not be afraid to marry my daughter. You
are a clever man with a good heart, and would not
let my beloved work go to ruin; and the chief reason
is that I love you as a son, and I am proud of you..
If Tanya and you could get up a romance somehow,
then — well ! I should be very glad and even
happy. I tell you this plainly, without mincing mat-
ters, like an honest man."
Kovrin laughed. Yegor Semyonltch opened the
door to go out, and stood in the doorway.
" If Tanya and you had a son, I would make a
horticulturist of him," he said, after a moment's
thought. '' However, this Is idle dreaming. Good-
Left alone, Kovrin settled himself more com-
fortably on the sofa and took up the articles. The
title of one was *' On Intercropping"; of another,
" A Few Words on the Remarks of Monsieur Z.
concerning the Trenching of the Soil for a New
120 The Tales of Chekhov-
Garden"; a third, "Additional Matter concerning
Grafting with a Dormant Bud"; and they were all
\of the same sort. But what a restless, jerky tone!
'What nervous, almost hysterical passion ! Here
was an article, one would have thought, with most
peaceable and impersonal contents: the subject of
it was the Russian Antonovsky Apple. But Yegor
Semyonitch began it with " Audiatur altera pars,"
and finished it with " Sapienti sat " ; and between
these two quotations a perfect torrent of venomous
phrases directed " at the learned ignorance of our
recognised horticultural authorities, who observe
Nature from the height of their university chairs,"
or at Monsieur Gaucher, " whose success has been
the work of the vulgar and the dilettanti." " And
then followed an inappropriate, affected, and in-
sincere regret that peasants who stole fruit and
broke the branches could not nowadays be flogged.
I *' It is beautiful, charming, healthy work, but even
in this there is strife and passion," thought Kovrin,
*' I suppose that everywhere and in all careers men
of ideas are nervous, and marked by exaggerated
1 sensitiveness. Most likely it must be so."
^ He thought of Tanya, who was so pleased with
Yegor Semyonitch's articles. Small, pale, and so
thin that her shoulder-blades stuck out, her eyes,
wide and open, dark and intelligent, had an intent
gaze, as though looking for something. She walked
like her father with a little hurried step. She talked
a great deal and was fond of arguing, accompanying
every phrase, however insignificant, with expressive
The Bl^cl^.Monk 121
mlnijcry aji^d^esdculatlon^' No doubt she was nerv-
ous In the extreme.
Kovrin went on reading the articles, but he under-
stood nothing of them, and flung them aside. The
same pleasant excitement with which he had earlier
in the evening danced the mazurka and Hstened to
the music was now mastering him again and rousing
a multitude of thoughts. He got up and began walk-
ing about the room, thinking about the black monk.
It occurred to him that if this strange, supernatural
monk had appeared to him only, that meant that he
was ill and had reached the point of havmg hallucP
natTons. This reflection frightened him, but not for
" But I am all right, and I am doing no harm to
any one; so there is no harm In my hanucinatlons^,''/
he thought; and he felt happy again.
He sat down on the sofa and clasped his hands
round his head. Restraining the unaccountable joy
which filled his whole being, he then paced up and
down again, and sat down to his work. But the
thought that he read in the book did not satisfy him.
He wa nted something giga ntic, unfathomable, stu-
p^n dous" Towards mornmg lie undressed and re^
luctantly went to bed: he ought to sleep.
When he heard the footsteps of Yegor Semyo-
nitch going out into the garden, Kovrin rang the bell
and asked the footman to bring him some wine.
He drank several glasses of Lafitte, then wrapped
himself up, head and all; his consciousness grew
clouded and he fell asleep.
122 The Tales of Chekhov
Yegor Semyonltch and Tanya often quarrelled
and said nasty things to each other.
They quarrelled about something that morning.
Tanya burst out crying and went to her room. She
would not come down to dinner nor to tea. At first
Yegor Semyonitch went about looking sulky and
dignified, as though to give every one to understand
that for him the claims of justice and good order
were more important than anything else in the world ;
but he could not keep It up for long, and soon sank
into depression. He walked about the park de-
jectedly, continually sighing: " Oh, my God! My
God! " and at dinner did not eat a morsel. At last,
guilty and consci ence-stricke n, he knocked at the
locked doo"r and called timidly:
" Tanya ! Tanya ! "
And from behind the door came a faint voice,
weak with crying but still determined:
" Leave me alone, if you please.'*
The depression of the master and mistress was
reflected in the whole household, even in the labour-
ers^working in the garden. Kovrin was absorbed in
his interesting work, but at last he, too, felt dreary
and uncomfortable. To dissipate the general ill-
humour in some way, he made up his mind to inter-
vene, and towards evening he knocked at Tanya's
door. He was admitted.
" Fie, fie, for shame ! " he began playfully, look-
ing with surprise at Tanya's tear-stained, woebegone
The Black Monk 123
face, flushed In patches with crying. " Is It really
so serious? Fie, fie ! "
" But If you knew how he tortures me ! " she said,
and floods of scalding tears streamed from her big
eyes. " He torments me to death," she went on,
wringing her hands. " I said nothing to him . . .
nothing ... I only said that there was no need to
keep . . . too many labourers ... If we could
hire them by the day when we wanted them. You
know . . . you know the labourers have been doing
nothing for a whole week. . . . I . . . I . . .
only said that, and he shouted and . . . said . . .
a lot of horrible Insulting things to me. What
" There, there,'' said Kovrin, smoothing her hair.
" YouVe quarrelled with each other, you've cried,
and that's enough. You must not be angry for long
— that's wrong ... all the more as he loves you
'^ He has . . . has spoiled my whole life," Tanya
went on, sobbing. " I hear nothing but abuse and
. . . insults. He thinks I am of no use in the house.
Well! He Is right. I shall go away to-morrow; 1
shall become a telegraph clerk. ... I don't
care. . . ."
" Come, come, come. . . . You mustn't cry,
Tanya. You mustn't, dear. . . . You are both
hot-tempered and Irritable, and you are both to
blame. Come along; I will reconcile you."
Kovrin talked affectionately and persuasively,
while she went on crying, twitching her shoulders
124 The Tales of Chekhov
and wringing her hands, as though some terrible mis-
fortune had really befallen her. He felt all the
sorrier for her because her grief was not a serious
one, yet she suffered extremely. What trivialities
were enough to make this little creature miserable
for a whole day, perhaps for her whole life ! Com-
forting Tanya, Kovrin thought that, apart from this
girl and her father, he might hunt the world over
and would not find people who would love him as
one of themselves, as one of their kindred. If it
had n ot been fo r those two h e might very likely,
having lost hisTather and mother in early childhood,
never to the day of his death have known what was
meant by genuiiie affection and that na'iye^uncrltical
J^oye which Is only lavished on very close blood re-
lations; and he felt that the nerves of this weeping,
shaking girl responded to his half-sick, overstrained
; nerves like iron to a magnet. He never could have
^ loved a healthy, strong, rosy-cheeked woman, but
\ pale, weak, unhappy Tanya attracted him.
And he liked stroking her hair and her shoulders,
. pressing her hand and wiping away her tears. . . .
I At last she left off crying. She went on for a long
\tlme complaining of her father and her hard. In-
sufferable life In that house, entreating Kovrin to
put himself In her place; then she began, little by
little, smiling, and sighing that God had given her
such a bad temper. At last, laughing aloud, she
called herself a fool, and ran out of the room.
When a little later Kovrin went Into the garden,
Yegor Semyonltch and Tanya were walking side by
side along an avenue as though nothing had hap-
The Black Monk 125
pened, and both were eating rye bread with salt on
it, as both were hungry.
Glad that he had been so successful in the part
of peacemaker, Kovrin went into the park. Sitting
on a garden seat, thinking, he heard the rattle of
a carriage and a feminine laugh — visitors were
arriving. When the shades of evening began fall-
ing on the garden, the sounds of the violin and sing-
ing voices reached him Indistinctly, and that re-
minded him of the black monk. Where, In what
land or In what planet, was that optical absurdity
moving now ?
Hardly had he recalled the legend and pictured
In his Imagination the dark apparition he had seen
In the rye-field, when, from behind a pine-tree exactly
opposite, there came out noiselessly, without the
slightest rustle, a man of medium height with un-
covered grey head, all In black, and barefooted like
a beggar, and his black eyebrows stood out conspicu-
ously on his pale, death-like face. Nodding his
head graciously, this beggar or pilgrim came noise-
lessly to the seat and sat down, and Kovrin recog-
nised him as the black monk.
For a minute they looked at one another, Kovrin
with amazement, and the monk with friendliness,
and, just as before, a little slyness, as though he were
thinking something to himself.
" But you are a mirage," said Kovrin. ^' Why
are you here and sitting still? That does not fit in
with the legend."
125 The Tales of Chekhov
" That does not matter," the monk answered in
a low voice, not immediately turning his face to-
wards him. '* The legend, the mirage, and I are all
the products of your excited imagination. 1 am a
*' Then you don't exist? " said Kovrin.
" You can think as you like," said the monk, with
a faint smile. " I exist in your imagination, and
your imagination is part of nature, so I exist in
" You have a very old, wise, and extremely ex-
pressive face, as though you really had lived more
than a thousand years," said Kovrin. " I did not
know that my imagination was capable of creating
such phenomena. But why do you look at me with
such enthusiasm? Do you like me? "
*' Yes, you are one of those few who are justly
called the chosen of God. You do the service of
eternal truth. Your thoughts, your designs, the
marvellous studies you are engaged in, and all your
life, bear the Divine, the heavenly stamp, seeing that
they are consecrated to the rational and the beautiful
— that is, to what is eternal."
" You said ' eternal truth.' . . . But is eternal
truth of use to man and within his reach, if there is
no eternal life? "
*' There Is eternal life," said the monk.
"Do you believe in the immortality of man?"
*' Yes, of course. A grand, brilliant future is In
store for you men. And the more there are like
you on earth, the sooner will this future be realised.
Without you who serve the higher principle and live
The Black Monk 127
in full understanding and freedom, mankind would]
be of little account: developing in a natural way. '- .
would have to wait a long time for the end of :z^ ,
earthly history. You will lead it some thousands/
of years earlier into the kingdom of eternal truth
— and therein lies your supreme service. You are
the incarnation of the blessing of God, which rests
'* And what is the object of eternal life? " asked
'* As of all life — en'ovmen r. Trie en'oyment
lies in knowledge, "and"
in that sense it has been said: 'In My Father's
house there are many mansions.' ''
"If only you knew how pleasant It Is to hear
you ! " said Kovrin, rubbing his hands with satis-
" I am very glad."
'* But I know that when you go away I shall be
worried by the quesr'on of your reality. You are
a phantom, an hallucination. So I am mentally de-
ranged. not normal?*'
" W hat If you are? Why trouble yourself?
You are ill because you have overwo rked and ex-
hausted yourself, and that means that you have sac-
rificed your health to the idea, and the time Is near
at hand when you will give up Efe itself to It. What
could be better? That Is the goal towards which
all divinely endowed, noble natures strive."
*' If I know I am mentally a^ected. can I trust
128 The Tales of Chekhov
" And are you sure that the men of genius, whom
all men trust, did not see phantoms, too? The
learned say now that genius is allied to madness.
My friend, healthy and normal people are only the
common herd. Reflections upon the neurasthenia
of the age, nervous exhaustion and degeneracy,
et cetera, can only seriously agitate those who place
the object of life in the present — that is, the com-
"The Romans used to say: Mens sana in cor-
" Not everything the Greeks and the Romans said
Is true. Exaltation, enthusiasm, ecstasy — all that
distinguishes prophets, poets, martyrs for the idea,
from the common folk — is repellent to the animal
side of man — that is, his physical health. I repeat,
if you want to be healthy and normal, go to the com-
" Strange that you repeat what often comes into
my mind," said Kovrin. " It is as though you had
seen and overheard my secret thoughts. But don't
let us talk about me. What do you mean by ' eter-
The monk did not answer. Kovrin looked at
him and could not distinguish his face. His fea-
tures grew blurred and misty. Then the monk's
head and arms disappeared; his body seemed merged
into the seat and the evening twilight, and he van-
" The hallucination Is over," said Kovrin; and he
laughed. " It's a pity."
He went back to the house, light-hearted and
The Black Monk 129
happy. The little the monk had said to him had
flattered, not his vanity, but his whole soul, his whole
being. To be one of the chosen, to serve eternal
truth, to stand in the ranks of those who could make
mankind worthy of the kingdom of God some thou-
sands of years sooner — that is, to f ree men from
some thousands of years of unnecess ary struggle,
sin, and suffering; to sacrifice to the idea everythmg
— youth, strength, health; to be ready to die for
the common weal — what an exalted, what_a_ happy ^
lot! He recalled his past — pure, chaste, labori- y //^
ous; he remembered what he had learned himself^ ^
and what he had taught to others, and decided that
there was no exaggeration in the monk's words.
Tanya came to meet him in the park: she was by
now wearing a different dress.
" Are you here? " she said. " And we have been
looking and looking for you. . . . But what Is the
matter with you?" she asked in wonder, glancing
at his radiant, ecstatic face and eyes full of tears.
'' How strange you are, Andryusha! "
*' I am pleased, Tanya," said Kovrin, laying his
hand on her shoulders. " I am more than pleased:
I am happy. Tanya, darling Tanya, you are an
extraordinary, nice creature. Dear Tanya, I am so
glad, I am so glad! "
He kissed both her hands ardently, and went on:
" I have just passed through an exal ted, wo nder-
ful, uneart hly moment. But I can't tell you all
about it or you would call me mad and not believe
me. Let us talk of you. Dear, delightful Tanya !
I love you, and am used to loving you. To have
130 The Tales of Chekhov
you near me, to meet you a dozen times a day, has
become a necessity of my existence; I don't know
how I shall get on without you when I go back
" Oh," laughed Tanya, " you will forget about us
in two days. We are humble people and you are a
" No; let us talk in earnest! " he said. " I shall
take you with me, Tanya. Yes? Will you come
with me? Will you be mine? "
*' Come," said Tanya, and tried to laugh again,
but the laugh w^ould not come, and patches of colour
came into her face.
She began breathing quickly and walked very
quickly, but not to the house, but further into the
" I was not thinking of it ... I was not think-
ing of it," she said, wringing her hands in despair.
And Kovrin followed her and went on talking,
with the same radiant, enthusiastic face:
" I want a love that will dominate .me altogether ;
and that love only you, Tanya, can give me. I am
happy! I am happy! "
She w^as overwhelmed, and huddling and shrink-
ing together, seemed ten years older all at once,
while he thought her beautiful and expressed his
" How lovely she is! "
Learning from Kovrin that not only a romance
had been got up, but that there would even be a
The Black Monk 131
wedding, Yegor Semyonltch spent a long time in
pacing from one corner of the room to the other,
trying to conceal his agitation. His hands began
trembling, his neck swelled and turned purple, he
ordered his racing droshky and drove off somewhere.
Tanya, seeing how he lashed the horse, and seeing
how he pulled his cap over his ears, understood
what he was feeling, shut herself up in her room, and
cried the whole day.
In the hot-houses the peaches and plums were al-
ready ripe; the packing and sending off of these ten-
der and fragile goods to Moscow took a great deal
of care, work, and trouble. Owing to the fact that
the summer w^as very hot and dry, it was necessary
to water every tree, and a great deal of time and
labour was spent on doing it. Numbers of cater-
pillars made their appearance, which, to Kovrin's
disgust, the labourers and even Yegor Semyonitch
and Tanya squashed with their fingers. In spite of
all that, they had already to book autumn orders
for fruit and trees, and to carry on a great deal of
correspondence. And at the very busiest time, when
no one seemed to have a free moment, the work of
the fields carried off more than half their labourers
from the garden. Yegor Semyonitch, sunburnt, ex-
hausted, ill-humoured, galloped from the fields to
the garden and back again; cried that he was being
torn to pieces, and that he should put a bullet through
Then came the fuss and worry of the trousseau, to
which the Pesotskys attached a good deal of impor-
tance. Every one's head was In a whirl from the
132 The Tales of Chekhov
snipping of the scissors, the rattle of the sewing-
machine, the smell of hot irons, and the caprices of
the dressmaker, a huffy and nervous lady. And, as
ill-luck would have it, visitors came every day, who
had to be entertained, fed, and even put up for the
night. But all this hard labour passed unnoticed
as though in a fog. Tanya felt that love and hap-
piness had taken her unawares, though she had, smce
she was fourteen, for some reason been convinced
that Kovrin would marry her and no one else. She
was bewildered, could not grasp it, could not believe
herself. ... At one minute such joy would swoop
down upon her that she longed to fly away to the
clouds and there pray to God, at another moment
she would remember that In August she would have
to part from her home and leave her father; or,
goodness knows why, the Idea would occur to her
that she was worthless — Insignificant and unworthy
of a great man like Kovrin — and she would go to
her room, lock herself In, and cry bitterly for sev-
eral hours. When there were visitors, she would
suddenly fancy that Kovrin looked extraordinarily
handsome, and that all the women were In love with
him and envying her, and her soul was filled with
pride and rapture, as though she had vanquished
the whole world; but he had only to smile politely
at any young lady for her to be trembling with
jealousy, to retreat to her room — and tears again.
These new sensations mastered her completely; she
helped her father mechanically, without noticing
peaches, caterpillars or labourers, or how rapidly
the time was passing.
The Black Monk 133
It was almost the same with Yegor Semyonitch.
He worked from morning till night, was always in
a hurry, was irritable, and flew into rages, but all
of this was in a sort of spellbound dream. It seemed
as though there w^ere two men in him: one was the
real Yegor Semyonitch, who was moved to indigna-
tion, and clutched his head in despair when he heard
of some irregularity from Ivan Karlovitch the gar-
dener ; and another — not the real one — who
seemed as though he were half drunk, would Inter-
rupt a business conversation at half a word, touch
the gardener on the shoulder, and begin muttering:
'' Say what you like, there is a great deal in blood.
His mother was a wonderful woman, most high-
minded and intelligent. It was a pleasure to look
at her good, candid, pure face; it was like the face
of an angel. She drew splendidly, wrote verses,
spoke five foreign languages, sang. . . . Poor thing !
she died of consumption. The Kingdom of Heaven
The unreal Yegor Semyonitch sighed, and after a
pause went on :
*' When he was a boy and growing up in my
house, he had the same angelic face, good and can-
did. The way he looks and talks and moves Is as
soft and elegant as his mother's. And his intellect !
We were always struck with his intelligence. To be
sure, It's not for nothing he's a Master of Arts !
It's not for nothing! And wait a bit, Ivan Karlo-
vitch, what will he be in ten years' time? He will
be far above us 1 "
But at this point the real Yegor Semyonitch, sud-
134 The Tales of Chekhov
denly coming to himself, would make a terrible face,
would clutch his head and cry:
"The devils! They have spoilt everything 1
They have ruined everything! They have spoilt
everything! The garden's done for, the garden's
ruined ! "
Kovrin, meanwhile, worked with the same ardour
as before, and did not notice the general commo-
tion. Love only added fuel to .the flames. After
every talk with Tanya he went to his room, happy
and triumphant, took up his book or his manuscript
with the same passion with which he had just kissed
Tanya and told her of his love. What the black
monk had told him of the chosen of God, of eternal
truth, of the brilliant future of mankind and so on,
gave peculiar and extraordinary significance to his
work, and filled his soul with pride and the conscious-
ness of his own exalted consequence. Once or twice
a week. In the park or In the house, he met the black
monk and had long conversations with him, but this
did not alarm him, but, on the contrary, delighted
him, as he was now firmly persuaded that such appa-
ritions only visited the elect few who rise up above
their fellows and devote themselves to the service of
One day the monk appeared at dinner-time and
sat in the dining-room window. Kovrin was de-
lighted, and very adroitly began a conversation with
Yegor Semyonitch and Tanya of what might be of
interest to the monk; the black-robed visitor listened
and nodded his head graciously, and Yegor Semyo-
nitch and Tanya listened, too, and smiled gaily with-
The Black Monk 135
out suspecting that Kovrin was not talking to them
but to his hallucination.
Imperceptibly the fast of the Assumption was ap-
proaching, and soon after came the wedding, which,
at Yegor Semyonitch's urgent desire, was celebrated
with '' a flourish " — that is, with senseless festivi-
ties that lasted for two whole days and nights.
Three thousand roubles' worth of food and drink
was consumed, but the music of the wretched hired
band, the noisy toasts, the scurrying to and fro of
the footmen, the uproar and crowding, prevented
them from appreciating the taste of the expensive
wines and wonderful delicacies ordered from Mos-
One long winter night Kovrin was lying in bed,
reading a French novel. Poor Tanya, who had
headaches in the evenings from living in town, to
which she was not accustomed, had been asleep a
long while, and, from time to time, articulated some
incoherent phrase in her restless dreams.
It struck three o'clock. Kovrin put out the light
and lay down to sleep, lay for a long time with his
eyes closed, but could not get to sleep because, as
he fancied, the room was very hot and Tanya talked.
In her sleep. At half-past four he lighted the candle
again, and this time he saw the black monk sitting
in an arm-chair near the bed.
" Good-morning," said the monk, and after a
brief pause he asked: " What are you thinking of
136 The Tales of Chekhov
" Of fame," answered Kovrln. " In the French
novel I have just been reading, there is a descrip-
tion of a young savant, who does silly things and
pines away through worrying about fame. 1 can't
understand such anxiety."
" Because you are wise. Your attitude towards
fame is one of indifference, as towards a toy which
no longer interests you."
" Yes, that is true."
*' Renown does not allure you now. What is
there flattering, amusing, or edifying in their carving
your name on a tombstone, then time rubbing off
the inscription together with the gilding? More-
over, happily there are too many of you for the
weak memory of mankind to be able to retain your
"Of course," assented Kovrin. " Besides, why
should they be^remembered ? But let us talk of
something else. Of happiness, for instance. \VhBt
is happiness,? "
When the clock struck five, he was sitting on the
bed, dangling his feet to the carpet, talking to the
*' In ancient times a happy man grew at last
frightened of his happiness — it was so great! —
and to propitiate the gods he brought as a sacrifice
his favourite ring. Do you know, I, too, like
Polykrates, begin to be uneasy of my happiness . It
seems strange to me that from morning to night I
feel nothing but joy; it fills my whole being and
smothers all other feelings. I don't know what sad-
«-^ess, grief, or boredom is. Here I am not asleep;
The Black Monk 137
I suffer from sleeplessness, but I am not dull. I say
it in earnest; Lb^ln_t£jeid_£erglexed.''
"But why?" the monk asked in wonder. "Is
JQ^ a supernatural feeling? O ught it not to be
the normal st ate of man? The more highly a man
is developed on the intellectual and moral side, the
more independent he is, the more pleasure life gives
him. Socrates, Diogenes, and Marcus Aurelius,
were joyful, not sorrowful. And the Apostle tells
us: ' Rejoice continually '; ' Rejoice^and be glad/ "
"But will the gods be suddenly wrathful?"
Kovrin jested; and he laughed. " If they take from
me comfort and make me go cold and hungry, it
won't be very much to my taste."
Meanwhile Tanya woke up, and looked with
amazement and horror at her husband. He was
talking, addressing the arm-chair, laughing and ges-
ticulating; his eyes were gleaming, and there was
something strange in his laugh.
" Andryusha, whom are you talking to?" she
asked, clutching the hand he stretched out to the
monk. "Andryusha! Whom?"
"Oh! Whom?" said Kovrin in confusion.
" Why, to him. , . . He is sitting here," he said,
pointing to the black monk.
" There is no one here ... no one ! And-
ryusha, you are ill! "
Tanya put her arm round her husband and held
him tight, as though protecting him from the appa-
rition, and put ETer hand over his eyes.
"You are ill!" she sobbed, trembling all over.
" Forgive me, my precious, my dear one, but I have
138 The Tales of Chekhov
noticed for a long time that your mind is clouded
in some way. . . . You are mentally ill, And-
ryusha. . . ."
Her trembling infected him, too. He glanced
once more at the arm-chair, which was now empty,
felt a sudden weakness in his arms and legs, was
frightened, and began dressing.
" It's nothing, Tanya; it's nothing," he muttered,
shivering. " I really am not quite well . . . it's
time to admit that."
" I have noticed It for a long time . . . and
father has noticed it," she said, trying to suppress
her sobs. " You talk to yourself, smile somehow
strangely . . . and can't sleep. Oh, my God, my
God, save us! " she said in terror. " But don't be
frightened, Andryusha; for God's sake don't be
frightened. . . ."
She began dressing, too. Only now, looking at
her, Kovrin realised the danger of his position —
realised the meaning of the black monk and his con-
versations with him. It was clear to him now that
he was mad.
Neither of them knew why they dressed and went
into the dining-room: she In front and he following
her. There they found Yegor Semyonitch stand-
ing in his dressing-gown and with a candle in his
hand. He was staying with them, and had been
awakened by Tanya's sobs.
" Don't be frightened, Andryusha," Tanya was
saying, shivering as though in a fever; ''don't be
frightened. . . . Father, it will all pass over . . .
It will all pass over. . . ."
The Black Monk 139
Kovrin was too much agitated to speak. He
wanted to say to his father-in-law in a playful tone :
'^ Congratulate me; it appears I have gone out of
my mind "; but he could only move his lips and smile
At nine o'clock in the morning they put on his
jacket and fur coat, wrapped him up in a shawl, and
took him in a carriage to a doctor.
Summer had come again, and the doctor advised
their going into the country. Kovrin had recov-
ered; he had left off seeing the black monk, and he
had only to get up his strength. Staying at his
father-in-law's, he drank a great deal of milk, worked
for only two hours out of the twenty-four, and
neither smoked nor drank wine.
On the evening before Elijah's Day they had an
evening service in the house. When the deacon was
handing the priest the censer the immense old room
smelt like a graveyard, and Kovrin felt bored. He
went out into the garden. Without noticing the
gorgeous flowers, he walked about the garden, sat
down on a seat, then strolled about the park; reach-
ing the river, he went down and then stood lost in
thought, looking at the water. The sullen pines
with their shaggy roots, which had seen him a year
before so young, so joyful and confident, were not
whispering now, but standing mute and motionless,
as though they did not recognise him. And, indeed,
his head was closely cropped, his beautiful long hair
140 The Tales of Chekhov
was gone, his step was lagging, his face was fuller
and paler than last summer.
He crossed by the footbridge to the other side.
Where the year before there had been rye the oats
stood, reaped, and lay in rows. The sun had set
and there was a broad stretch of glowing red on the
horizon, a sign of windy weather next day. It was
still. Looking in the direction from which the year
before the black monk had first appeared, Kovrin
stood for twenty minutes, till the evening glow had
begun to fade. . . .
When, Hstless and dissatisfied, he returned home
the service was over. Yegor Semyonitch and Tanya
were sitting on the steps of the verandah, drinking
tea. They were talking of something, but, seeing
Kovrin, ceased at once, and he concluded from their
faces that their talk had been about him.
" I believe it is time for you to have your milk,"
[Tanya said to her husband.
" No, it is not time yet . . ." he said, sitting
down on the bottom step. " Drink it yourself; I
don't want it."
Tanya exchanged a troubled glance with her
father, and said in a guilty voice :
^' You notice yourself that milk does you good."
"Yes, a great deal of good!" Kovrin laughed.
"I congratulate you: I have gained a pound in
weight since Friday." He pressed his head tightly
in his hands and said miserably: " Why, why have
you cured me? Preparations of bromide, idleness,
hot baths, supervision, cowardly consternation at
every mouthful, at every step — all this will reduce
The Black Monk 141
me at last to idiocy. I went out of my mind, I had
meg^alomania ; but then I was cheerful, confident, and
even happy; I^was interesting and original. Now I
have become more sensible and stolid, but I am just
like every one else : 1 am — mediocrity; I am weary]
of life. . . . Oh, how cruelly you have treated me !
... I saw hallucinations, but what harm did that
do to any one? I ask, what harm did that do any
" Goodness knows what you are saying! " sighed
Yegor Semyonitch. " It's positively wearisome to
listen to it."
" Then don't listen."
The presence of other people, especially Yegor
Semyonitch, irritated Kovrin now; he answered him
drily, coldly, and even rudely, never looked at him
but with irony and hatred, while Yegor Semyonitch
was overcome with confusion and cleared his throat
guiltily, though he was not conscious of any fault
in himself. At a loss to understand why their
charming and affectionate relations had changed so
abruptly, Tanya huddled up to her father and looked
anxiously in his face; she wanted to understand and
could not understand, and all that was clear to her
was that their relations were growirLg. w^ir.se and
worse every day, that of late her father had begun
to look much older, and her husband had grown
irrita ble^ ca prici ous, quarrelsome and uninteresting.
She could not laugh or sing; at dinner she ate noth-
ing; did not sleep for nights together, expecting
something awful, and was so worn out that on one
occasion she lay in a dead faint from dinner-time
142 The Tales of Chekhov
till evening. During the service she thought her
father was crying, and now while the three of them
were sitting together on the terrace she made an
effort not to think of it.
*' How fortunate Buddha, Mahomed, and Shake-
speare were that their kind relations and doctors
did not cure them of theixecstasy and their inspira-
tion," said Kovrin. " If Mahomed had taken bro-
mide for his nerves, had worked only two hours out
of the twenty-four, and had drunk milk, that remark-
able man would have left no more trace after him
than his dog. Doctors and kind relations will, suc-
c_eed in^ stupefying mankind, In_ jnaking m ediocrity
pass for genius and in brin ging civ irisatiQn_.to ruin.
If only you knew," Kovrin said with annoyance,
" how grateful I am to you."
He felt intense irritation, and'^to avoid saying too
much,) he got up quickly and \^nt into the house.
It was still, and the fragrance of the tobacco plant
and the marvel of Peru floated in at the open win-
dow. The moonlight lay in green patches on the
floor and on the piano in the big dark dining-room.
Kovrin remembered the raptures of the previous
summer when there had been the same scent of the
marvel of Peru and the moon had shone in at the
window. To bring back the mood of last year he
went quickly to his study, lighted a strong cigar, and
told the footman to bring him some wine. But the
cigar left a bitter and disgusting taste in his mouth,
and the wine had not the same flavour as it had the
year before. And so great is the effect of giving up
a habit, the cigar and the two gulps of wine made
The Black Monk 143
him giddy, and brought on palpitations of the heart,
so that he was obliged to take bromide.
Before going to bed, Tanya said to him:
" Father adores you. You are cross with him
about something, and it is killing him. Look at him ;
he is ageing, not from day to day, but from hour to
hour. I entreat you, Andryusha, for God's sake,
for the sake of your dead father, for the sake of my
peace of mind, be affectionate to hijn."
"I can't, I don't want to."
*' But why? " asked Tanya, beginning to tremble
all over. " Explain why."
" Because he iaaiatl pathetic to me, that's all," said
Kovrin carelessly; and he shrugged his shoulders.
" But we won't talk about him: he is your father."
** I can't understand, I can't," said Tanya, press-
ing her hands to her temples and staring at a fixed
point. " Something incomprehensible, awful, is
going on in the house. You have changed, grown
unlike yourself. . . . You, clever, extraordinary
man as you are, aje irrit ated ove r trifles, meddle in
paltry nonsense. . . . Such trivial things excite you,
that sometimes one is simply amazed and can't be-
lieve that it is you. Come, come, don't be angry,
don't be angry," she went on, kissing his hands,
frightened of her own words. " You are clever,
kind, noble. You will be just to father. He is so
" He is not good; he is just good-natured. Bur- i
lesque old uncles like your father, with well-fed,
good-natured faces, extraordinarily hospitable and
queer, at one time used to touch me and amuse me
144 The Tales of Chekhov
in novels and In farces and in life; now I dislike
them. They are egoists to the marrow of their
bones. What disgusts me most of all is their being
so well-fed, and that purely bovine, purely hoggish
optimism of a full stomach."
Tanya sat down on the bed and laid her head on
'* This is torture," she said, and from her voice It
was evident that she was utterly exhausted, and that
It was hard for her to speak. ^' Not one moment
of peace since the winter. . . . Why, it's awful!
My God ! I am wretched."
^' Oh, of course, I am Herod, and you and your
father are the Innocents. Of course."
His face seemed to Tanya ugly and unpleasant.
Hatred and an Ironical expression did not suit him.
And, indeed, she had noticed before that there was
something lacking In his face, as though ever since
his hair had been cut his face had changed, too. She
wanted to say something w^ounding to him, but Im-
mediately she caught herself in this antagonistic feel-
ing, she was frightened and went out of the bedroom.
Kovrin received a professorship at the University.
The Inaugural address was fixed for the second of
December, and a notice to that effect was hung up
in the corridor at the University. But on the day
appointed he informed the students' Inspector, by
telegram, that he was prevented by Illness from giv-
ing the lecture.
The Black Monk 145
He had hsemorrhage from the throat. He was
often spitting blood, but it happened two or three
times a month that there was a considerable loss of
blood, and then he grew extremely weak and sank
into a drowsy condition. This illness did not par-
ticularly frighten him, as he knew that his mother
had lived for ten years or longer suffering from the
same disease, and the doctors assured him that there
was no danger, and had only advised him to avoid
excitement, to lead a regular life, and to speak as
little as possible.
In January again his lecture did not take place
owing to the same reason, and in February it was
too late to begin the course. It had to be postponed
to the following year.
By now he w:as living not with Tanya, but with
another woman, who was two years older than he
was, and who looked after him as though he were a
baby. He was in a calm and tranquil state of mind;
he readily gave in to her, and when Varvara Niko-
laevna — that was the name of his friend — decided
to take him to the Crimea, he agreed, though he had
a presentiment that no good would come of the trip.
They reached Sevastopol In the evening and
stopped at an hotel to rest and go on the next day to
Yalta. They were both exhausted by the journey.
Varvara Nikolaevna had some tea, went to bed and
was soon asleep. But Kovrin did not go to bed.
An hour before starting for the station, he had re-
ceived a letter from Tanya, and had not brought
himself to open It, and now It was lying In his coat
pocket, and the thought of It excited him disagree-
The Tales of Chekhov
ably. At the bottom of his heart he genuinely con-
sidered now that his marriage to Tanya had been a
mistake. He was glad that their separation was
final, and the thought of that woman who in the
end had turjied into a living relic, still walking about
though everything seemed dead In her except her
big, staring, intelligent eyes — the thought of her
roused in him nothing but pky and disgust with him-
self. The handwriting on the envelope reminded
him how cruel and unjust he had been two years be-
fore, how he had worked off his anger at his spiritual
emptiness, his boredom, his loneliness, and his dis-
satisfaction with life by reypn^\n^^ h]ir\^e]f nn people
Injio way; tojjlame. He remembered, also, how he
had torn up his dissertation and all the articles he
had written during his illness, and how he had
thrown them out of window, and the bits of paper
had fluttered In the wind and caught on the trees
and flowers. In every line of them he saw strange,
utterly groundless pretension, shallow defiance, arro-
gance, megalomania; and they made him feel as
though he were reading a de scrip tion of his v ices.
But when the last manuscript had been torn up and
sent flying out of window, he felt, for some reason,
suddenly bitter and angry; he went to his wife and
said a great many unpleasant things to her. My
God, how he had tormented her ! One day, wanting
to cause her pain, he told her that her father had
played a very unattractive part In their romance,
that he had asked him to marry her. Yegor Sem-
yonitch accidentally overheard this, ran into the
The Black Monk 147
room, and, in his despair, could not utter a word,
could only stamp and make a strange, bellowing
sound as though he had lost the power of speech,
and Tanya, looking at her father, had uttered a
heart-rending shriek and had fallen into a swoon.
It was hideous.
All this came back into his memory as he looked
at the familiar writing. Kovrin went out on to the
balcony; it was still warm weather and there was a
smell of the sea. The wonderful bay reflected the
moonshine and the lights, and was of a colour for
which it was difficult to find a name. It was a soft
and tender blending of dark blue and green ; in places
the water was like blue vitriol, and in places it seemed
as though the moonlight were liquefied and filling
the bay instead of water. And what harmony of
colours, what an atmosphere of peace, calm, and
In the lower storey under the balcony the win-
dows were probably open, for women's voices and
laughter could be heard distinctly. Apparently
there was an evening party.
Kovrin made an effort, tore open the envelope,
and, going back Into his room, read :
" My father is just dead. I owe that to you, for
you have killed him. Our garden is being ruined;
strangers are managing It already — that Is, the very
thing is happening that poor father dreaded. That,
too, I owe to you. I hate you with my whole soul,
and I hope you may soon perish. Oh, how wretched
I am ! Insufferable anguish is burning my soul. . . .
148 The Tales of Chekhov
My curses on you. I took you for an extraordinary
man, a genius; I loved you, and you have turned out
a madman. . . ."
Kovrin could read no more, he tore up the letter
and threw it away. He was overcome by an un-
easiness that was akin to terror. Varvara Niko-
laevna was asleep behind the screen, and he could
hear her breathing. From the lower storey came
A the sounds of laughter and women's voices, but he
II felt as though in the whole hotel there were no living
i|soul but him. Because Tanya, unhappy, broken by
^■sorrow, had cursed_hjm in her letter and hoped for
his perdition, he felt eerie and kept glancing hur-
riedly at the door, as though he were afraid that the
uncomprehended force which two years before had
wrought such havocjn his life and In the life of those
near him might come Into the room and master him
He knew by experience that when his nerves were
out of hand the best thing for him to do was to
work. He must sit down to the table and force
himself, at all costs, to concenjtrate his mind on some
one thought. He took from his red portfolio a
manuscript containing a sketch of a small work of
the nature of a compilation, which he had planned
In case he should find It dull In the Crimea without
work. He sat down to the table and began work-
ing at this plan, and It seemed to him that his calm,
peaceful, indifferent mood was coming back. The
manuscript with the sketch even led him to medita-
tion on the_vanlty_p,f the world. He thought how
much life exacts for the worthless or very common-
The Black Monk 149
place blessings It can give a man. For instance, to
gain, before forty, a university chair, to be an ordi-
nary professor, to e xpound ordinary and second-
hand thoughts in duirTheav y, insipid language — in
fact, to gain the position of a mediocre learned man,
he, Kovrin, had had to study jqr_fifteen_ years, to
nwork day and nigTit, to endure a terrible mental ill-
ness, to experience an unhappy marriage, and to do
\a great number of stupid and unjust things which it
would have been pleasant not to remember. Kovrin
recognised clearly, now, that be was a mediocrity, ^
and readily resigned himself to it, as he considered
that every man ought to be satisfied with what he is.
The plan of the volume would have soothed him
completely, but the torn letter showed white on the
floor and prevented him from concentrating his at-
tention. He got up from the table, picked up the
pieces of the letter and threw them out of window,
but there was a light wind blowing from the sea,
and the bits of paper were scattered on the window-
sill. Again he was overcome by uneasiness akin to
terror, and he felt as though in the whole hotel there
were no living soul but himself. . . . He went out
on the balcony. The bay, like a living thing, looked
at him with its multitude of light blue, dark blue,
turquoise and fiery eyes, and seemed beckoning to
him. And it really was hot and oppressive, and it
would not have been amiss to have a bathe.
Suddenly in the lower storey under the balcony a
violin began playing, and two soft feminine voices
began singing. It was something familiar. The
song was about a maiden, full of sick fancies, who
150 The Tales of Chekhov
heard one night hi her garden mysterious sounds, so
strange and lovely that she was obliged to recognise
them as a holy harmony which is unintelligible to us
mortals, and so flies back to heaven. . . . Kovrin
caught his breath and there was a pang of sadness
at his heart, and a thrill of the sweet, exquisite de-
light he had so long forgotten began to stir in his
A tall black column, like a whirlwind or a water-
spout, appeared on the further side of the bay. It
moved with fearful rapidity across the bay, towards
the hotel, growing cmaller and darker as it came,
and Kovrin only just had time to get out of the way
to let it pass. . . . The monk with bare grey head,
black eyebrows, barefoot, his* arms crossed over his
breast, floated by him, and stood still in the middle
of the room.
** Why did you not believe me?" he asked re-
proachfully, looking affectionately at Kovrin. " If
you had believed me then, that you were a genius,
you would not have spent these two years so gloomily
and so wretchedly."
Kovrin already believed that he was one of God's
chosen and a genius; he vividly recalled his conver-
sations with the monk in the past and tried to speak,
but the blood flowed from his throat on to his breast,
and not knowing what he was doing, he passed his
hands over his breast, and his cuffs were soaked with
blood. He tried to call Varvara Nikolaevna, who
was asleep behind the screen; he made an effort and
The Black Monk 151
He fell on the floor, and propping himself on his
arms, called again:
'' Tanya I "
He called Tanya, called to the great garden with
the gorgeous flowers sprinkled with dew, called to
the park, the pines with their shaggy roots, the rye-
field, his marvellous learning, his youth, courage, joy
— called to life, which was so lovely. He saw on
the floor near his face a great pool of blood, and
was too weak to utter a word, but an unspeakable,
infinite hapoiness flooded his whole being. Below,
under the balcony, they were playing the serenade,
and the black monk whispered to him that he was a
genius, and that he was dying only because his frail
human body had lost its balance and could no longer
serve as the mortal garb of genius.
When Varvara Nikolaevna woke up and came
out from behind the screen, Kovrin was dead, and a
blissful smile was set upon his face.
At five o'clock one Sunday afternoon In summer,
Volodya, a plain, shy, sickly-looking lad of seven-
teen, was sitting in the arbour of the Shumihins'
country villa, feeling dreary. His despondent
thoughts flowed in three directions. In the first
place, he had next day, Monday, an examination in
mathematics; he knew that if he did not get through
the written examination on the morrow, he would
be expelled, for he had already been two years in
the sixth form and had two and three-quarter marks
for algebra in his annual report. In the second
place, his presence at the villa of the Shumihins, a
wealthy family with aristocratic pretensions, was a
continual source of mortification to his amour-
propre. It seemed to him that Madame Shumihin
looked upon him and his maman as poor relations
and dependents, that they laughed at his maman and
did not respect her. He had on one occasion acci-
dentally overheard Madame Shumihin, in the ve-
randah, telling her cousin Anna Fyodorovna that
his maman still tried to look young and got herself
up, that she never paid her losses at cards, and had
a partiality for other people's shoes and tobacco.
Every day Volodya besought his maman not to go to
the Shumihins', and drew a picture of the humiliating
part she played with these gentlefolk. He tried to
156 The Tales of Chekhov
persuade her, said rude things, but she — a frivo-
lous, pampered woman, who had run through two
fortunes, her own and her husband's, in her time,
and always gravitated towards acquaintances of high
rank — did not understand him, and twice a week
Volodya had to accompany her to the villa he hated.
In the third place, the youth could not for one
instant get rid of a strange, unpleasant feeling which
was absolutely new to him. ... It seemed to him
that he was in love with Anna Fyodorovna, the
Shumihins' cousin, who was staying with them.
She was a vivacious, loud-voiced, laughter-loving,
healthy, and vigorous lady of thirty, with rosy
cheeks, plump shoulders, a plump round chin and a
continual smile on her thin lips. She was neither
young nor beautiful — Volodya knew that perfectly
well; but for some reason he could not help thinking
of her, looking at her while she shrugged her plump
shoulders and moved her flat back as she played
croquet, or after prolonged laughter and running
up and down stairs, sank into a low chair, and, half
closing her eyes and gasping for breath, pretended
that she was stifling and could not breathe. She was
married. Her husband, a staid and dignified archi-
tect, came once a week to the villa, slept soundly,
and returned to town. Volodya's strange feeling
had begun with his conceiving an unaccountable
hatred for the architect, and feeling relieved every
time he went back to town.
Now, sitting In the arbour, thinking of his exami-
nation next day, and of his maman, at whom they
laughed, he felt an Intense desire to see Nyuta (that
Volodya 1 57
was what the Shumihins called Anna Fyodorovna),
to hear her laughter and the rustle of her dress. . . .
This desire was not like the pure, poetic love of
which he read in novels and about which he dreamed
every night when he went to bed; it was strange,
incomprehensible; he was ashamed of it, and afraid
of it as of something very wrong and impure, some-
thing which it was disagreeable to confess even to
" It's not love," he said to himself. *' One can't
fall in love with women of thirty who are mar-
ried. It is only a little intrigue. . . . Yes, an in-
trigue. . . ."
Pondering on the " intrigue," he thought of his
uncontrollable shyness, his lack of moustache, his
freckles, his narrow eyes, and put himself in his
imagination side by side with Nyuta, and the juxta-
position seemed to him impossible; then he made
haste to imagine himself bold, handsome, witty,
dressed in the latest fashion.
When his dreams were at their height, as he sat
huddled together and looking at the ground in a
dark corner of the arbour, he heard the sound of
light footsteps. Some one was coming slowly along
the avenue. Soon the steps stopped and something
white gleamed in the entrance.
" Is there any one here? " asked a woman's voice.
Volodya recognised the voice, and raised his head
In a fright.
''Who is here?" asked Nyuta, going Into the
arbour. '' Ah, It Is you, Volodya? What are you
doing here? Thinking? And how can you go on
158 The Tales of Chekhov
thinking, thinking, thinking? . . . That's the way
to go out of your mind! "
Volodya got up and looked in a dazed way at
Nyuta. She had only just come back from bathing.
Over her shoulder there was hanging a sheet and
a rough towel, and from under the white silk ker-
chief on her head he could see the wet hair sticking
to her forehead. There was the cool damp smell
of the bath-house and of almond soap still hanging
about her. She was out of breath from running
quickly. The top button of her blouse was undone,
so that the boy saw her throat and bosom.
" Why don't you say something? " said Nyuta,
looking Volodya up and down. '* It's not polite to
be silent when a lady talks to you. What a clumsy
seal you are though, Volodya ! You always sit,
saying nothing, thinking like some philosopher.
There's not a spark of life or fire in you! You are
really horrid! ... At your age you ought to be
living, skipping, and jumping, chattering, flirting,
falling in love."
Volodya looked at the sheet that was held by a
plump white hand, and thought. . . .
''He's mute," said Nyuta, with wonder; "It is
strange, really. . . . Listen! Be a man! Come,
you might smile at least! Phew, the horrid philoso-
pher! " she laughed. " But do you know, Volodya,
why you are such a clumsy seal? Because you don't
devote yourself to the ladies. Why don't you?
It's true there are no girls here, but there is nothing
to prevent your flirting with the married ladies!
Why don't you flirt with me, for instance? "
Volodya listened and scratched his forehead In
acute and painful irresolution.
'' It's only very proud people who are silent and
love solitude," Nyuta went on, pulling his hand away
from his forehead. " You are proud, Volodya.
Why do you look at me like that from under your
brows ? Look me straight in the face, if you please !
Yes, now then, clumsy seal! "
Volodya made up his mind to speak. Wanting
to smile, he twitched his lower lip, blinked, and again
put his hand to his forehead.
'' I . . . I love you," he said.
Nyuta raised her eyebrows in surprise, and
"What do I hear?" she sang, as prima-donnas
sing at the opera when they hear something awful.
" What? What did you say? Say it again, say it
again. . . ."
" I ... I love you! " repeated Volodya.
And without his will's having any part in his
action, without reflection or understanding, he took
half a step towards Nyuta and clutched her by the
arm. Everything was dark before his eyes, and
tears came into them. The whole world was turned
Into one big, rough towel which smelt of the bath-
'^ Bravo, bravo!" he heard a merry laugh.
"Why don't you speak? I want you to speak!
Seeing that he was not prevented from holding
her arm, Volodya glanced at Nyuta's laughing face,
and clumsily, awkwardly, put both arms round her
i6o The Tales of Chekhov
waist, his hands meeting behind her back. He held
her round the waist with both arms, while, putting
her hands up to her head, showing the dimples in
her elbows, she set her hair straight under the ker-
chief and said in a calm voice :
" You must be tactful, polite, charming, and you
can only become that under feminine influence. But
what a wicked, angry face you have ! You must
talk, laugh. . . . Yes, Volodya, don't be surly; you
are young and will have plenty of time for philoso-
phising. Come, let go of me; I am going. Let
Without effort she released her waist, and, hum-
ming something, walked out of the arbour. Vo-
lodya was left alone. He smoothed his hair, smiled,
and walked three times to and fro across the arbour,
then he sat down on the bench and smiled again.
He felt insufferably ashamed, so much so that he
wondered that human shame could reach such a
pitch of acuteness and intensity. Shame made him
smile, gesticulate, and whisper some disconnected
He was ashamed that he had been treated like a
small boy, ashamed of his shyness, and, most of all,
that he had had the audacity to put his arms round
the w^aist of a respectable married woman, though,
as it seemed to him, he had neither through age nor
by external quality, nor by social position any right
to do so.
He jumped up, went out of the arbour, and, with-
out looking round, walked into the recesses of the
garden furthest from the house.
*' Ah I only to get away from here as soon as pos-
sible," he thought, clutching his head. *' My God!
as soon as possible."
The train by which Volodya was to go back with
his marnan was at eight-forty. There were three
hours before the train started, but he would with
pleasure have gone to the station at once without
waiting for his fnaman.
At eight o'clock he went to the house. His whole
figure was expressive of determination: what would
be, would be ! He made up his mind to go in
boldly, to look them straight in the face, to speak
in a loud voice, regardless of everything.
He crossed the terrace, the big hall and the draw-
ing-room, and there stopped to take breath. He
could hear them In the dining-room, drinking tea.
Madame Shumihin, maman, and Nyuta were talking
and laughing about something.
" I assure you! " said Nyuta. *' I cOuld not be-
lieve my eyes! When he began declaring his pas-
sion and — just Imagine! — put his arms round my
waist, I should not have recognised him. And you
know he has a way with him ! When he told me
he was in love with me, there was something brutal
in his face, like a Circassian."
" Really! " gasped maman, going off Into a peal
of laughter. "Really! How he does remind me
of his father! "
Volodya ran back and dashed out Into the open
*' How could they talk of It aloud ! " he wondered
l62 The Tales of Chekhov
In agony, clasping his hands and looking up to the
sky in horror. " They talk aloud In cold blood , . .
and ina?7ian laughed! . . . Maman! My God,
why dIdst Thou give me such a mother? Why?"
But he had to go to the house, come what might.
He walked three times up and down the avenue,
grew a little calmer, and went Into the house.
"Why didn't you come In In time for tea?"
Madame Shumihin asked sternly.
" I am sorry, It's . . . It's time for me to go,"
he muttered, not raising his eyes. '' Maman, It's
eight o'clock ! "
" You go alone, my dear," said his maman lan-
guidly. " I am staying the night with Lili. Good-
bye, my dear. . . . Let me make the sign of the
cross over you."
She made the sign of the cross over her son, and
said In French, turning to Nyuta :
"He's rather like Lermontov . . . Isn't he?"
Saying good-bye after a fashion, without looking
any one in the face, Volodya went out of the dining-
room. Ten minutes later he was walking along the
road to the station, and was glad of It. Now he
felt neither frightened nor ashamed; he breathed
freely and easily.
About half a mile from the station, he sat down
on a stone by the side of the road, and gazed at the
sun, which was half hidden behind a barrow. There
were lights already here and there at the station,
and one green light glimmered dimly, but the train
was not yet in sight. It was pleasant to Volodya to
sit still without moving, and to watch the evening
coming little by little. The darkness of the arbour,
the footsteps, the smell of the bath-house, the laugh-
ter, and the waist — all these rose with amazing
vividness before his imagination, and all this was
no longer so terrible and important as before.
*' It's of no consequence. . . . She did not pull
her hand away, and laughed when I held her by the
waist," he thought. " So she must have liked it.
If she had disliked It she would have been an-
And now Volodya felt sorry that he had not had
more boldness there In the arbour. He felt sorry
that he was so stupidly going away, and he was by
now persuaded that If the same thing happened
again he would be bolder and look at it more sim-
And it would not be difficult for the opportunity
to occur again. They used to stroll about for a
long time after supper at the Shumihins*. If
Volodya went for a walk with Nyuta In the dark
garden, there would be an opportunity!
" I will go back," he thought, ** and will go by
the morning train to-morrow. ... I will say I have
missed the train."
And he turned back. . . . Madame Shumlhin,
maman, Nyuta, and one of the nieces were sitting
on the verandah, playing vint. When Volodya told
them the lie that he had missed the train, they were
uneasy that he might be late for the examination
next day, and advised him to get up early. All the
while they were playing he sat on one side, greedily
watching Nyuta and waiting. . . . He already had
164 The Tales of Chekhov
a plan prepared in his mind: he would go up to
Nyuta in the dark, would take her by the hand, then
would embrace her; there would be no need to say
anything, as both of them would understand without
But after supper the ladies did not go for a walk
in the garden, but went on playing cards. They
played till one o'clock at night, and then broke up
to go to bed.
"How stupid it all is!" Volodya thought with
vexation as he got into bed. " But never mind; Fll
wait till to-morrow . . . to-morrow in the arbour.
It doesn't matter. . . ."
He did not attempt to go to sleep, but sat in bed,
hugging his knees and thinking. All thought of the
examination was hateful to him. He had already
made up his mind that they would expel him, and
that there was nothing terrible about his being ex-
pelled. On the contrary, it was a good thing — a
very good thing, in fact. Next day he would be as
free as a bird; he would put on ordinary clothes in-
stead of his school uniform, w^ould smoke openly,
come out here, and make love to Nyuta when he
liked; and he would not be a schoolboy but " a young
man." And as for the rest of it, what is called a
career, a future, that was clear; Volodya would go
into the army or the telegraph service, or he would
go into a chemist's shop and work his way up till
he was a dispenser. . . . There were lots of call-
ings. An hour or two passed, and he was still sit-
ting and thinking. . . .
Towards three o'clock, when it was beginning to
get light, the door creaked cautiously and his maman
came into the room.
" Aren't you asleep? " she asked, yawning. " Go
to sleep; I have only come in for a minute. ... I
am only fetching the drops. ..."
" Poor Lili has got spasms again. Go to sleep,
my child, your examination's to-morrow. . . ."
She took a bottle of something out of the cup-
board, went to the window, read the label, and went
" Marya Leontyevna, those are not the drops ! "
Volodya heard a woman's voice, a minute later.
** That's convallaria, and Lili wants morphine. Is
your son asleep? Ask him to look for it. . . ."
It was Nyuta's voice. Volodya turned cold. He
hurriedly put on his trousers, flung his coat over his
shoulders, and went to the door.
" Do you understand? Morphine," Nyuta ex-
plained in a whisper. " There must be a label in
Latin. Wake Volodya ; he will find it."
Maman opened the door and Volodya caught
sight of Nyuta. She was wearing the same loose
wrapper in which she had gone to bathe. Her hair
hung loose and disordered on her shoulders, her face
looked sleepy and dark In the half-light. . . .
" Why, Volodya is not asleep," she said. " Vo-
lodya, look in the cupboard for the morphine, there's
a dear! What a nuisance Lili is! She has always
something the matter."
Maman muttered something, yawned, and went
i66 The Tales of Chekhov
''Look for It," said Nyuta. "Why are you
standing still? **
Volodya went to the cupboard, knelt down, and
began looking through the bottles and boxes of medi-
cine. His hands were trembling, and he had a feel-
ing In his chest and stomach as though cold waves
were running all over his Inside. He felt suffocated
and giddy from the smell of ether, carbolic add, and
various drugs, which he quite unnecessarily snatched
up with his trembling fingers and spilled In so doing.
" I believe fnaman has gone," he thought.
" That's a good thing ... a good thing. . . ."
" Will you be quick? " said Nyuta, drawling.
" In a minute. . . . Here, I believe this Is mor-
phine," said Volodya, reading on one of the labels
the word " morph . . ." "Here It Is!"
Nyuta was standing in the doorway in such a way
that one foot was In his room and one was In the
passage. She was tidying her hair, which was diffi-
cult to put In order because it was so thick and long,
and looked absent-mindedly at Volodya. In her
loose wrap, with her sleepy face and her hair down,
in the dim light that came into the white sky not
yet lit by the sun, she seemed to Volodya captivating,
magnificent. . . . Fascinated, trembling all over,
and remembering with relish how he had held that
exquisite body in his arms In the arbour, he handed
her the bottle and said:
" How wonderful you are ! "
She came into the room.
"What?" she asked, smiling.
He was silent and looked at her, then, just as in
the arbour, he took her hand, and she looked at him
with a smile and waited for what would happen
" I love you," he whispered.
She left off smiling, thought a minute, and said:
*' Wait a little; I think somebody is coming. Oh,
these schoolboys! " she said in an undertone, going
to the door and peeping out into the passage. , " No,
there is no one to be seen. . . ."
She came back.
Then it seemed to Volodya that the room, Nyuta,
the sunrise and himself — all melted together in one
sensation of acute, extraordinary, incredible bliss,
for which one might give up one's whole life and face
eternal torments. . . . But half a minute passed and
all that vanished. Volodya saw only a fat, plain
face, distorted by an expression of repulsion, and he
himself suddenly felt a loathing for what had hap-
" I must go away, though," said Nyuta, looking
at Volodya with disgust. " What a wretched, ugly
. . . fie, ugly duckling! "
How unseemly her long hair, her loose wrap, her
steps, her voice seemed to Volodya now ! . . .
*' * Ugly duckling ' . . ." he thought after she
had gone away. " I really am ugly . . . every-
thing is ugly."
The sun was rising, the birds were singing loudly ;
he could hear the gardener walking in the garden
and the creaking of his wheelbarrow . . . and soon
afterwards he heard the lowing of the cows and the
i68 The Tales of Chekhov
sounds of the shepherd's pipe. The sunlight and
the sounds told him that somewhere in this world
there is a pure, refined, poetical life. But where
was it? Volodya had never heard a word of it
from his maman or any of the people round about
When the footman came to wake him for the
morning train, he pretended to be asleep. . . .
'' Bother it ! Damn it all ! " he thought.
He got up between ten and eleven.
Combing his hair before the looking-glass, and
looking at his ugly face, pale from his sleepless night,
" It's perfectly true ... an ugly duckling! "
When maman saw him and was horrified that he
was not at his examination, Volodya said:
*' I overslept myself, maman. . . . But don't
worry, I will get a medical certificate."
Madame Shumihin and Nyuta waked up at one
o'clock. Volodya heard Madame Shumihin open
her window with a bang, heard Nyuta go off into a
peal of laughter in reply to her coarse voice. He
saw the door open and a string of nieces and other
toadies (among the latter was his maman) file into
lunch, caught a glimpse of Nyuta's freshly washed
laughing face, and, beside her, the black brows and
beard of her husband the architect, who had just
Nyuta was wearing a Little Russian dress which
tlld not suit her at all, and made her look clumsy:
the architect was making dull and vulgar jokes.
The rissoles served at lunch had too much onion in
them — so it seemed to Volodya. It also seemed
to him that Nyuta laughed loudly on purpose, and
kept glancing in his direction to give him to under-
stand that the memory of the night did not trouble
her in the least, and that she was not aware of the
presence at table of the " ugly duckling."
At four o'clock Volodya drove to the station with
his viaman. Foul memories, the sleepless night,
the prospect of expulsion from school, the stings of
conscience — all roused in him now an oppressive,
gloomy anger. He looked at mamans sharp pro-
file, at her little nose, and at the raincoat which was
a present from Nyuta, and muttered:
"Why do you powder? It's not becoming at
your age! You make yourself up, don't pay your
debts at cards, smoke other people's tobacco. . . .
It's hateful! I don't love you ... I don't love
He was insulting her, and she moved her little
eyes about in alarm, flung up her hands, and whis-
pered in horror:
" What are you saying, my dear ! Good gra-
cious! the coachman will hear! Be quiet or the
coachman will hear ! He can overhear everything."
" I don't love you ... I don't love you! " he
went on breathlessly. " You've no soul and no
morals. . . . Don't dare to wear that raincoat!
Do you hear? Or else I will tear it into rags. . . ."
" Control yourself, my child," maman wept; " the
coachman can hear! "
"And where is my father's fortune? Where is
your money? You have wasted it all. I am not
lyo The Tales of Chekhov
ashamed of being poor, but I am ashamed of havuig
such a mother. . . . When my schoolfellows ask
questions about you, I always blush."
In the train they had to pass two stations before
they reached the town. Volodya spent all the time
on the little platform between two carriages and
shivered all over. He did not want to go into the
compartment because there the mother he hated was
sitting. He hated himself, hated the ticket col-
lectors, the smoke from the engine, the cold to which
he attributed his shivering. And the heavier the
weight on his heart, the more strongly he felt that
somewhere in the world, among some people, there
was a pure, honourable, warm, refined life, full of
love, affection, gaiety, and serenity. . . . He felt
this and was so intensely miserable that one of the
passengers, after looking in his face attentively,
" You have the toothache, I suppose? "
In the town niaman and Volodya lived with
Marya Petrovna, a lady of noble rank, who had a
large flat and let rooms to boarders. Maman had
two rooms, one with windows and two pictures in
gold frames hanging on the walls. In which her bed
stood and in which she lived, and a little dark room
opening out of It In which Volodya lived. Here
there was a sofa on which he slept, and, except that
sofa, there was no other furniture; the rest of the
room was entirely filled up with whicker baskets full
of clothes, cardboard hat-boxes, and all sorts of rub-
bish, which maman preserved for some reason or
other. Volodya prepared his lessons either in his
mother's room or In the " general room," as the
large room in which the boarders assembled at din-
ner-time and in the evening was called.
On reaching home he lay down on his sofa and
put the quilt over him to stop his shivering. The
cardboard hat-boxes, the wicker baskets, and the
other rubbish, reminded him that he had not a room
of his own, that he had no refuge in which he could
get away from his mother, from her visitors, and
from the voices that were floating up from the '' gen-
eral room." The satchel and the books lying about
in the corners reminded him of the examination he
had missed. . . . For some reason there came into
his mind, quite inappropriately, Mentone, where he
had lived with his father when he was seven years
old; he thought of Biarritz and two little English
girls with whom he ran about on the sand. . . . He
tried to recall to his memory the colour of the sky,
the sea, the height of the waves, and his mood at
the time, but he could not succeed. The English
girls flitted before his imagination as though they
were living; all the rest was a medley of images that
floated aw^ay in confusion. . . .
" No; it's cold here," thought Volodya. He got
up, put on his overcoat, and went into the " general
There they were drinking tea. There were three
people at the samovar: maman; an old lady wdth
tortolseshell pince-nez, who gave music lessons; and
Avgustin Mlhalitch, an elderly and very stout
Frenchman, who was employed at a perfumery fac-
172 The Tales of Chekhov
'' I have had no dinner to-day," said maman. " I
ought to send the maid to buy some bread."
*' Dunyasha ! " shouted the Frenchman.
It appeared that the maid had been sent out some-
where by the lady of the house.
" Oh, that's of no consequence," said the French-
man, with a broad smile. *' I will go for some
bread myself at once. Oh, it's nothing."
He laid his strong, pungent cigar in a conspicuous
place, put on his hat and went out. After he had
gone away marnan began telling the music teacher
how she had been staying at the Shumihins', and how
warmly they welcomed her.
" Lili Shumihin is a relation of mine, you know,"
she said. " Her late husband, General Shumihin,
was a cousin of my husband. And she was a Baron-
ess Kolb by birth. . . ."
^^ Maman J that's false!" said Volodya irritably.
"Why tell hes?"
He knew perfectly well that what his mother said
was true; in what she was saying about General
Shumihin and about Baroness Kolb there was not a
word of lying, but nevertheless he felt that she was
lying. There was a suggestion of falsehood in her
manner of speaking, in the expression of her face, in
her eyes, in everything.
"You are lying," repeated Volodya; and he
brought his fist down on the table with such force
that all the crockery shook and maman^s tea was
spilt over. " Why do you talk about generals and
baronesses? It's all lies!"
The music teacher was disconcerted, and coughed
Into her handkerchief, affecting to sneeze, and
manian began to cry.
*' Where can I go?" thought Volodya.
He had been in the street already; he was
ashamed to go to his schoolfellows. Again, quite
incongruously, he remembered the two Httle Eng-
lish girls. . . . He paced up and down the " general
room," and went Into Avgustin Mihalitch's room.
Here there was a strong smell of ethereal oils and
glycerine soap. On the table, in the window, and
even on the chairs, there were a number of bottles,
glasses, and wineglasses containing fluids of various
colours. Volodya took up from the table a news-
paper, opened It and read the title Figaro. . . .
There was a strong and pleasant scent about the
paper. Then he took a revolver from the table. . . .
*' There, there! Don't take any notice of it."
The music teacher was comforting maman In the
next room. '' He Is young! Young people of his
age never restrain themselves. One must resign
oneself to that."
*' No, Yevgenya Andreyevna; he's too spoilt,"
said maman In a singsong voice. *' He has no one
in authority over him, and I am weak and can do
nothing. Oh, I am unhappy! "
Volodya put the muzzle of the revolver to his
mouth, felt something like a trigger or spring, and
pressed it with his finger. . . . Then felt something
else projecting, and once more pressed It. Taking
the muzzle out of his mouth, he wiped it with the
lapel of his coat, looked at the lock. He had never
in his life taken a weapon in his hand before, . . .
174 The Tales of Chekhov
" I believe one ought to raise this . . ." he re-
flected. " Yes, it seems so."
Avgustin Mihalitch went into the *' general
room," and with a laugh began telling them about
something. Volodya put the muzzle in his mouth
again, pressed it with his teeth, and pressed some-
thing with his fingers. There was a sound of a
shot. . . . Something hit Volodya in the back of his
head with terrible violence, and he fell on the table
v/ith his face downwards among the bottles and
glasses. Then he saw his father, as in Mentone, in
a top-hat with a wide black band on it, wearing
mourning for some lady, suddenly seize him by both
hands, and they fell headlong into a very deep, dark
Then everything was blurred and vanished.
AN ANONYMOUS STORY
AN ANONYMOUS STORY
Through causes which it is not the time to go into
in detail, I had to enter the service of a Petersburg
official called Orlov, in the capacity of a footman.
He was about five and thirty, and was called
Georgy * Ivanitch.
I entered this Orlov's service on account of his
father, a prominent political man, whom I looked
upon as a serious enemy of my cause. I reckoned
that, living with the son, I should — from the con-
versations I should hear, and from the letters and
papers I should find on the table — learn every de-
tail of the father's plans and intentions.
. As a rule at eleven o'clock in the morning the
electric bell rang in my footman's quarters to let
me know that my master was awake. When I went
into the bedroom with his polished shoes and
brushed clothes, Georgy Ivanitch would be sitting
in his bed with a face that looked, not drowsy, but
rather exhausted by sleep, and he would gaze off in
one direction without any sign of satisfaction at
having waked. I helped him to dress, and he let
me do it with an air of reluctance without speaking
or noticing my presence ; then with his head wet with
washing, smelling of fresh scent, he used to go into
* Both g*s hard, as in " Gorgon " ; e like ai in rain.
178 The Tales of Chekhov
the dining-room to drink his coifee. He used to sit
at the table, sipping his coffee and glancing through
the newspapers, while the maid Polya and I stood
respectfully at the door gazing at him. Two
grown-up persons had to stand watching with the
gravest attention a third drinking coffee and munch-
ing rusks. It was probably ludicrous and grotesque,
but I saw nothing humiliating in having to stand
near the door, though I was quite as well borti and
well educated as Orlov himself.
I was in the first stage of consumption, and w^as
suffering from something else, possibly even more
serious than consumption. I don't know whether
it was the effect of my illness or of an incipient
change in my philosophy of life of which I was not
conscious at the time, but I was, day by day, more
possessed by a passionate, irritating longing for ordi-
nary everyday life. I yearned for mental tran-
quillity, health, fresh air, good food. I was becom-
ing a dreamer, and, like a dreamer, I did not know
exactly what I wanted. Sometimes I felt inclined
to go into a monastery, to sit there for days together
by the window and gaze at the trees and the fields;
sometimes I fancied I would buy fifteen acres of
land and settle down as a country gentleman; some-
times I inwardly vowed to take up science and be-
come a professor at some provincial university. I
was a retired navy lieutenant; I dreamed of the sea,
of our squadron, and of the corvette in which T had
made the cruise round the world. I longed to ex-
perience again the indescribable feeling when, walk-
ing in the tropical forest or looking at the sunset in
An Anonymous Story 179
the Bay of Bengal, one is thrilled with ecstasy and at
the same time homesick. L dreamed of mountains,
women, music, and, with the curiosity of a child, I
looked into people's faces, listened to their voices.
And when I stood at the door and watched Orlov
sipping his coffee, 1 felt not a footman, but a man
interested in everything in the world, even in Orlov.
In appearance Orlov was a typical Petersburger,
with narrow shoulders, a long waist, sunken temples,
eyes of an indefinite colour, and scanty, dingy-col-
oured hair, beard and moustaches. His face had a
stale, unpleasant look, though it was studiously cared
for. It was particularly unpleasant when he was
asleep or lost in thought. It is not worth while de-
scribing a quite ordinary appearance; besides, Peters-
burg is not Spain, and a man's appearance Is not of
much consequence even In love affairs, and Is only
of value to a handsome footman or coachman. I
have spoken of Orlov's face and hair only because
there was something In his appearance worth men-
tioning. When Orlov took a newspaper or book,
whatever it might be, or met people, whoever they
might be, an Ironical smile began to come Into his
eyes, and his whole countenance assumed an expres-
sion of light mockery in which there was no malice.
Before reading or hearing anything he always had
his Irony in readiness, as a savage has his shield.
It was an habitual Irony, like some old liquor brewed
years ago, and now it came Into his face probably
without any participation of his will, as It were by
reflex action. But of that later.
Soon after midday he took his portfolio, full of
i8o The Tales of Chekhov
papers, and drove to his office. He dined away
from home and returned after eight o'clock. I used
to light the lamp and candles in his study, and he
would sit down in a low chair with his legs stretched
out on another chair, and, reclining in that position,
would begin reading. Almost every day he brought
in new books with him or received parcels of them
from the shops, and there were heaps of books in
three languages, to say nothing of Russian, which
he had read and thrown away, in the corners of my
room and under my bed. He read with extraordi-
nary rapidity. They say: " Tell me what you read,
and I'll tell you who you are." That may be true,
but It was absolutely impossible to judge of Orlov
by what he read. It was a regular hotchpotch.
Philosophy, French novels, political economy,
finance, new poets, and publications of the firm
Posrednik * — and he read it all with the same rapid-
ity and with the same ironical expression in his eyes.
After ten o'clock he carefully dressed, often in
evening dress, very rarely In his kammer-junker s
uniform, and went out, returning in the morning.
Our relations were quiet and peaceful, and we
never had any misunderstanding. As a rule he did
not notice my presence, and when he talked to me
there was no expression of Irony on his face — he
evidently did not look upon me as a human being.
I only once saw him angry. One day — It was
a week after I had entered his service — he came
back from some dinner at nine o'clock; his face
* I.e., Tchertkov and others, publishers of Tolstoy, who issued
good literature for peasants' reading.
An Anonymous Story 181
looked ill-humoured and exhausted. When I fol-
lowed him Into his study to light the candles, he said
" There's a nasty smell In the flat."
*' No, the air Is fresh," I answered.
" I tell you, there's a bad smell," he answered
*' I open the movable panes every day."
*' Don't argue, blockhead! " he shouted.
I was offended, and was on the point of answer-
ing, and goodness knows how it would have ended
if Polya, who knew her master better than I did,
had not intervened.
*' There really Is a disagreeable smell," she said,
raising her eyebrows. "What can It be from?
Stepan, open the pane In the drawing-room, and
light the fire."
With much bustle and many exclamations, she
went through all the rooms, rustling her skirts and
squeezing the sprayer with a hissing sound. And
Orlov was still out of humour; he was obviously re-
straining himself not to vent his Ill-temper aloud.
He was sitting at the table and rapidly writing a
letter. After writing a few lines he snorted angrily
and tore It up, then he began writing again.
" Damn them all! " he muttered. " They expect
me to have an abnormal memory! "
At last the letter was written ; he got up from the
table and said, turning to me :
'* Go to Znamensky Street and deliver this letter
to ZInalda Fyodorovna Krasnovsky In person. But
first ask the porter whether her husband — that Is,
l82 The Tales of Chekhov
Mr. Krasnovsky — has returned yet. If he has re-
turned, don't dehver the letter, but come back.
Wait a minute 1 ... If she asks whether I have
any one here, tell her that there have been two gentle-
men here since eight o'clock, writing something."
I drove to Znamensky Street. The porter told
me that Mr. Krasnovsky had not yet come In, and
I made my way up to the third storey. The door
was opened by a tall, stout, drab-coloured flunkey
with black whiskers, who in a sleepy, churlish, and
apathetic voice, such as only flunkeys use In address-
ing other flunkeys, asked me what I wanted. Before
I had time to answer, a lady dressed In black came
hurriedly Into the hall. She screwed up her eyes
and looked at me.
" Is ZInalda Fyodorovna at home? " I asked.
*' That is me," said the lady.
" A letter from Georgy Ivanltch."
She tore the letter open Impatiently, and holding
it In both hands, so that I saw her sparkling diamond
rings, she began reading. I made out a pale face
with soft lines, a prominent chin, and long dark
lashes. From her appearance I should not have
judged the lady to be more than five and twenty.
" Give him my thanks and my greetings," she said
when she had finished the letter. " Is there any one
with Georgy Ivanltch? " she asked softly, joyfully,
and as though ashamed of her mistrust.
" Two gentlemen," I answered. " They're writ-
*' Give him my greetings and thanks," she re-
peated, bending her head sideways, and, reading
An Anonymous Story 183
the letter as she walked, she went noiselessly out.
I saw few women at that time, and this lady of
whom I had a passing glimpse made an impression
on me. As I walked home I recalled her face and
the delicate fragrance about her, and fell to dream-
ing. By the time I got home Orlov had gone out.
And so my relations with my employer were quiet
and peaceful, but still the unclean and degrading
element which I so dreaded on becoming a footman
was conspicuous and made itself felt every day. I
did not get on with Polya. She was a well-fed and
pampered hussy who adored Orlov because he was
a gentleman and despised me because I was a foot-
man. Probably, from the point of view of a real
flunkey or cook, she was fascinating, with her red
cheeks, her turned-up nose, her coquettish glances,
and the plumpness, one might almost say fatness, of
her person. She powdered her face, coloured her
lips and eyebrows, laced herself in, and wore a bustle,
and a bangle made of coins. She walked with little
tripping steps; as she walked she swayed, or, as they
say, wriggled her shoulders and back. The rustle
of her skirts, the creaking of her stays, the jingle
of her bangle and the vulgar smell of lip salve, toilet
vinegar, and scent stolen from her master, aroused
in me whilst I was doing the rooms with her in the
morning a sensation as though I were taking part
with her in some abomination.
Either because I did not steal as she did, or be-
i84 The Tales of Chekhov
cause I displayed no desire to become her lover,
which she probably looked upon as an insult, or per-
haps because she felt that I was a man of a different
order, she hated me from the first day. My Inex-
perience, my appearance — so unlike a flunkey —
and my illness, seemed to her pitiful and excited her
disgust. I had a bad cough at that time, and some-
times at night I prevented her from sleeping, as our
rooms were only divided by a wooden partition, and
every morning she said to me :
" Again you didn't let me sleep. You ought to
be In hospital instead of in service."
She so genuinely believed that I was hardly a
human being, but something infinitely below her, that,
like the Roman matrons who were not ashamed to
bathe before their slaves, she sometimes went about
in my presence In nothing but her chemise.
Once when I was In a happy, dreamy mood, I
asked her at dinner (we had soup and roast meat
sent in from a restaurant every day) :
^* Polya, do you believe in God? "
"Why, of course!"
** Then," I went on, " you believe there will be
a day of judgment, and that we shall have to answer
to God for every evil action? "
She gave me no reply, but simply made a con-
temptuous grimace, and, looking that time at her
cold eyes and over-fed expression, I realised that for
her complete and finished personality no God, no
conscience, no laws existed, and that if I had had
to set fire to the house, to murder or to rob, I could
not have hired a better accomplice.
An Anonymous Story 185'
In my novel surroundings I felt very uncomfort-
able for the first week at Orlov's before I got used
to being addressed as " thou," and being constantly
obliged to tell lies (saying " My master is not at
home " when he was) . In my flunkey's swallow-tail
I felt as though I were In armour. But I grew ac-
customed to it in time. Like a genuine footman,
I waited at table, tidied the rooms, ran and drove
about on errands of all sorts. When Orlov did not
want to keep an appointment with Zinaida Fyodor-
ovna, or when he forgot that he had promised to
go and see her, I drove to Znamensky Street, put a
letter into her hands and told a lie. And the result
of it all was quite different from what I had ex-
pected when I became a footman. Every day of
this new life of mine was wasted for me and my
cause, as Orlov never spoke of his father, nor did
his visitors, and all I could learn of the stateman's
doings was, as before, what I could glean from the
newspapers or from correspondence with my com-
rades. The hundreds of notes and papers I used
to find In the study and read had not the remotest
connection with what I was looking for. Orlov was
absolutely uninterested in his father's political work,
and looked as though he had never heard of it, or
as though his father had long been dead.
Every Thursday we had visitors.
I ordered a piece of roast beef from the restaurant
and telephoned to Ellseyev's to send us caviare,
.i86 The Tales of Chekhov
cheese, oysters, and so on. I bought playing-cards.
Polya was busy all day getting ready the tea-things
and the dinner service. To tell the truth, this spurt
of activity came as a pleasant change in our idle life,
and Thursdays were for us the most interesting days.
Only three visitors used to come. The most im-
portant and perhaps the most interesting was the one
called Pekarsky — a tall, lean man of five and forty,
with a long hooked nose, with a big black beard,
and a bald patch on his head. His eyes were large
and prominent, and his expression was grave and
thoughtful like that of a Greek philosopher. He
was on the board of management of some railway,
and also had some post in a bank; he was a con-
sulting lawyer in some important Government in-
stitution, and had business relations with a large
number of private persons as a trustee, chairman of
committees, and so on. He was of quite a low grade
in the service, and modestly spoke of himself as a
lawyer, but he had a vast influence. A note or card
from him was enough to make a celebrated doctor,
a director of a railway, or a great dignitary see
any one without waiting; and It was said that through
his protection one might obtain even a post of the
Fourth Class, and get any sort of unpleasant busi-
ness hushed up. He was looked upon as a very in-
telligent man, but his was a strange, peculiar intelli-
gence. He was able to multiply 213 by 373 in his
head instantaneously, or turn English pounds into
German marks without help of pencil or paper; he
understood finance and railway business thoroughly,
and the machinery of Russian administration had no
An Anonymous Story 187
secrets for him; he was a most skilful pleader in
civil suits, and it was not easy to get the better of
him at law. But that exceptional intelligence could
not grasp many things which are understood even by
some stupid people. For instance, he was absolutely
unable to understand why people are depressed, why
they weep, shoot themselves, and even kill others;
why they fret about things that do not affect them
personally, and why they laugh when they read
Gogol or Shtchedrin. . . . Everything abstract,
everything belonging to the domain of thought and
feeling, was to him boring and incomprehensible,
like music to one who has no ear. He looked at
people simply from the business point of view, and
divided them into competent and incompetent. No
other classification existed for him. Honesty and
rectitude were only signs of competence. Drinking,
gambling, and debauchery were permissible, but
must not be allowed to interfere with business. Be-
lieving in God was rather stupid, but religion ought
to be safeguarded, as the common people must have
some principle to restrain them, otherwise they
would not work. Punishment is only necessary as
a deterrent. There was no need to go away for
holidays, as it was just as nice in town. And so on.
He was a widower and had no children, but lived
on a large scale, as though he had a family, and paid
three thousand roubles a year for his flat.
The second visitor, Kukushkin, an actual civil
councillor though a young man, was short, and was
conspicuous for his extremely unpleasant appearance,
which was due to the disproportion between his fat,
i88 The Tales of Chekhov
puffy body and his lean little face. His lips were
puckered up suavely, and his little trimmed mous-
taches looked as though they had been fixed on with
glue. He was a man with the manners of a lizard.
He did not walk, but, as it were, crept along with tiny
steps, squirming and sniggering, and when he
laughed he s'howed his teeth. He was a clerk on
special commissions, and did nothing, though he re-
ceived a good salary, especially in the summer, when
special and lucrative jobs were found for him. He
was a man of personal ambition, not only to the
marrow of his bones, but more fundamentally —
to the last drop of his blood; but even in his am-
bitions he was petty and did not rely on himself, but
was building his career on the chance favour flung
him by his superiors. For the sake of obtaining
some foreign decoration, or for the sake of having
his name mentioned in the newspapers as having
been present at some special service in the company
of other great personages, he was ready to submit
to any kind of humiliation, to beg, to flatter, to
promise. He flattered Orlov and Pekarsky from
cowardice, because he thought they were powerful;
he flattered Polya and me because we were in the
service of a powerful man. Whenever I took off
his fur coat he tittered and asked me: " Stepan,
are you married?" and then unseemly vulgarities
followed — by way of showing me special attention.
Kukushkin flattered Orlov's weaknesses, humoured
his corrupted and blase ways; to please him he
affected malicious raillery and atheism, in his com-
pany criticised persons before whom in other
An Anonymous Story 189
places he would slavishly grovel. When at supper
they talked of love and women, he pretended to be
a subtle and perverse voluptuary. As a rule, one
may say, Petersburg rakes are fond of talking of
their abnormal tastes. Some young actual civil
councillor is perfectly satisfied with the embraces of
his cook or of some unhappy street-walker on the
Nevsky Prospect, but to listen to him you would
think he was contaminated by all the vices of East
and West combined, that he was an honourary mem-
ber of a dozen Iniquitous secret societies and was
already marked by the pohce. Kukushkin lied about
himself in an unconscionable way, and they did not
exactly disbelieve him, but paid little heed to his
The third guest was Gruzin, the son of a worthy
and learned general; a man of Orlov's age, with
long hair, short-sighted eyes, and gold spectacles. I
remember his long white fingers, that looked like a
pianist's; and, indeed, there was something of a
musician, of a virtuoso, about his whole figure. The
first violins in orchestras look just like that. Fie
used to cough, suffered from migraine, and seemed
altogether invalidish and delicate. Probably at
home he was dressed and undressed like a baby.
He had finished at the College of Jurisprudence, and
had at first served in the Department of Justice, then
he was transferred to the Senate; he left that, and
through patronage had received a post in the De-
partment of Crown Estates, and had soon afterwards
given that up. In my time he was serving in Orlov's
department; he was his head-clerk, but he said that
igo The Tales of Chekhov
he should soon exchange into the Department of
Justice again. He took his duties and his shifting
about from one post to another with exceptional
levity, and when people talked before him seriously
of grades in the service, decorations, salaries, he
smiled good-naturedly and repeated Prutkov's aphor-
ism: "It's only in the Government service you
learn the truth." He had a little wife with a wrin-
kled face, who was very jealous of him, and five
weedy-looking children. He was unfaithful to his
wife, he was only fond of his children when he saw
them, and on the whole was rather indifferent to his
family, and made fun of them. He and his family
existed on credit, borrowing wherever they could at
every opportunity, even from his superiors in the
office and porters in people's houses. His was a
flabby nature; he was so lazy that he did not care
what became of himself, and drifted along heedless
where or why he was going. He went where he was
taken. If he was taken to some low haunt, he went;
if wine was set before him, he drank — if it were not
put before him, he abstained; if wives were abused
in his presence, he abused his wife, declaring she
had ruined his life — when wives were praised, he
praised his and said quite sincerely: "I am very
fond of her, poor thing! " He had no fur coat
and always wore a rug which smelt of the nursery.
When at supper he rolled balls of bread and drank
a great deal of red wine, absorbed in thought,
strange to say, I used to feel almost certain that
there was something in him of which perhaps he
had a vague sense, though in the bustle and vulgarity
An Anonymous Story 191
of his daily life he had not time to understand and
appreciate it. He played a little on the piano.
Sometimes he would sit down at the piano, play a
chord or two, and begin singing softly:
" What does the coming day bring to me ? "
But at once, as though afraid, he would get up and
walk from the piano.
The visitors usually arrived about ten o'clock.
They played cards in Orlov's study, and Polya and
I handed them tea. It was only on these occasions
that I could gauge the full sweetness of a flunkey's
life. Standing for four or five hours at the door,
watching that no one's glass should be empty, chang-
ing the ash-trays, running to the table to pick up the
chalk or a card when it was dropped, and, above all,
standing, waiting, being attentive without venturing
to speak, to cough, to smile — is harder, I assure
you, is harder than the hardest of field labour. I
have stood on watch at sea for four hours at a
stretch on stormy winter nights, and to my thinking
it is an infinitely easier duty.
They used to play cards till two, sometimes till
three o'clock at night, and then, stretching, they
would go into the dining-room to supper, or, as
Orlov said, for a snack of something. At supper
there was conversation. It usually began by Orlov's
speaking with laughing eyes of some acquaintance,
of some book he had lately been reading, of a new
appointment or Government scheme. Kukushkin,
always ingratiating, would fall into his tone, and
what followed was to me, in my mood at that time.
192 The Tales of Chekhov
a revolting exhibition. The Irony of Orlov and his
friends knew no bounds, and spared no one and
nothing. If they spoke of religion, it was with
irony; they spoke of philosophy, of the significance
and object of life — irony again, if any one began
about the peasantry, it was with irony.
There is in Petersburg a species of men whose
speciality it is to jeer at every aspect of life; they
cannot even pass by a starving man or a suicide with-
out saying something vulgar. But Orlov and his
friends did not jeer or make jokes, they talked ironi-
cally. They used to say that there was no God, and
personality was completely lost at death; the immor-
tals only existed in the French Academy. Real good
did not and could not possibly exist, as Its existence
was conditional upon human perfection, which was a
logical absurdity. Russia was a country as poor and
dull as Persia. The Intellectual class was hopeless;
in Pekarsky's opinion the overwhelming majority in
It were incompetent persons, good for nothing. The
people were drunken, lazy, thievish, and degenerate.
We had no science, our literature was uncouth, our
commerce rested on swindling — "No selling with-
out cheating." And everything was In that style,
and everything was a subject for laughter.
Towards the end of supper the wine made them
more good-humoured, and they passed to more
lively conversation. They laughed over Gruzln's
family life, over Kukushkin's conquests, or at
Pekarsky, who had, they said, In his account book
one page headed Charity and another Physiological
Necessities. They said that no wife was faithful;
An Anonymous Story 193
that there was no wife from whom one could not,
with practice, obtain caresses without leaving her
drawing-room while her husband was sitting in his
study close by; that girls in their teens were per-
verted and knew everything. Orlov had preserved
a letter of a schoolgirl of fourteen : on her way home
from school she had '' hooked an officer on the
Nevsky," who had, it appears, taken her home with
him, and had only let her go late in the evening; and
she hastened to write about this to her school friend
to share her joy with her. They maintained that
there was not and never had been such a thing as
moral purity, and that evidently it was unnecessary;
mankind had so far done very well without it. The
harm done by so-called vice was undoubtedly exag-
gerated. Vices which are punished by our legal
code had not prevented Diogenes from being a phi-
losopher and a teacher. Caesar and Cicero were
profligates and at the same time great men. Cato
in his old age married a young girl, and yet he was
regarded as a great ascetic and a pillar of morality.
At three or four o'clock the party broke up or
they went off together out of town, or to Officers'
Street, to the house of a certain Varvara Ossipovna,
while I retired to my quarters, and was kept awake
a long while by coughing and headache.
Three weeks after I entered Orlov's service —
it was Sunday morning, I remember — somebody
rang the bell. It was not yet eleven, and Orlov
194 The Tales of Chekhov
was still asleep. I went to open the door. You can
imagine my astonishment when I found a lady in
a veil standing at the door on the landing.
" Is Georgy Ivanitch up? " she asked.
From her voice I recognised Zinaida Fyodorovna,
to whom I had taken letters in Znamensky Street.
I don't remember whether I had time or self-posses-
sion to answer her — I was taken aback at seeing
her. And, indeed, she did not need my answer.
In a flash she had darted by me, and, filling the hall
with the fragrance of her perfume, which I remem-
ber to this day, she went on, and her footsteps died
away. For at least half an hour afterwards I heard
nothing. But again some one rang. This time it
was a smartly dressed girl, who looked like a maid
in a wealthy family, accompanied by our house por-
ter. Both were out of breath, carrying two trunks
and a dress-basket.
" These are for Zinaida Fyodorovna," said the
And she went down without saying another word.
All this was mysterious, and made Polya, who had a
deep admiration for the pranks of her betters, smile
slyly to herself; she looked as though she would like
to say, " So that's what we're up to," and she walked
about the whole time on tiptoe. At last we heard
footsteps; Zinaida Fyodorovna came quickly into the
hall, and seeing me at the door of my room, said:
*' Stepan, take Georgy Ivanitch his things."
When I went in to Orlov with his clothes and
his boots, he was sitting on the bed with his feet
on the bearskin rug. There was an air of embar-
An Anonymous Story 195
rassment about his whole figure. He did not notice
me, and my menial opinion did not interest him; he
was evidently perturbed and embarrassed before
himself, before his inner eye. He dressed, washed,
and used his combs and brushes silently and deliber-
ately, as though allowing himself time to think over
his position and to reflect, and even from his back
one could see he was troubled and dissatisfied with
They drank coffee together. Zinaida Fyodor-
ovna poured out coffee for herself and for Orlov,
then she put her elbows on the table and laughed.
" I still can't believe it," she said. '' When one
has been a long while on one's travels and reaches
a hotel at last, it's difficult to believe that one hasn't
to go on. It is pleasant to breathe freely."
With the expression of a child who very much
wants to be mischievous, she sighed with relief and
" You will excuse me," said Orlov, nodding to-
wards the coffee. *' Reading at breakfast is a habit
I can't get over. But I can do two things at once
— read and listen."
'* Read away. . , . You shall keep your habits
and your freedom. But why do you look so solemn ?
Are you always like that in the morning, or is it
only to-day? Aren't you glad? "
*' Yes, I am. But I must own I am a little over-
" Why? You had plenty of time to prepare your-
self for my descent upon you. I've been threaten-
ing to come every day."
196 The Tales of Chekhov
*' Yes, but I didn't expect you to carry out your
" I didn't expect it myself, but that's all the better.
It's all the better, my dear. It's best to have an
aching tooth out and have done with it."
" Yes, of course."
*' Oh, my dear," she said, closing her eyes, " all
is well that ends well; but before this happy ending,
what suffering there has been ! My laughing means
nothing; I am glad, I am happy, but I feel more like
crying than laughing. Yesterday I had to fight a
regular battle," she went on in French. " God alone
knows how wretched I was. But I laugh because
I can't believe in it. I keep fancying that my sit-
ting here drinking coffee with you is not real, but
Then, still speaking French, she described how
she had broken with her husband the day before,
and her eyes were alternately full of tears and of
laughter while she gazed with rapture at Orlov.
She told him her husband had long suspected her,
but had avoided explanations; they had frequent
quarrels, and usually at the most heated moment
he would suddenly subside into silence and depart
to his study for fear that in his exasperation he might
give utterance to his suspicions or she might herself
begin to speak openly. And she had felt guilty,
worthless, incapable of taking a bold and serious
step, and that had made her hate herself and her
husband more every day, and she had suffered the
torments of hell. But the day before, when during
a quarrel he had cried out in a tearful voice, " My
An Anonymous Story 197
God, when will it end? " and had walked off to his
study, she had run after him like a cat after a mouse,
and, preventing him from shutting the door, she had
cried that she hated him with her whole soul. Then
he let her come into the study and she had told him
everything, had confessed that she loved some one
else, that that some one else was her real, most law-
ful husband, and that she thought it her true duty
to go away to him that very day, whatever might
happen, if she were to be shot for it.
" There's a very romantic streak in you," Orlov
interrupted, keeping his eyes fixed on the newspaper.
She laughed and went on talking without touch-
ing her coffee. Her cheeks glowed and she was a
little embarrassed by it, and she looked In confusion
at Polya and me. From what she went on to say
I learnt that her husband had answered her with
threats, reproaches, and finally tears, and that it
would "have been more accurate to say that she, and
not he, had been the attacking party.
'' Yes, my dear, so long as I was worked up,
everything went all right," she told Orlov; "but as
night came on, my spirits sank. You don't believe
in God, George, but I do believe a little, and I fear
retribution. God requires of us patience, magna-
nimity, self-sacrifice, and here I am refusing to be
patient and want to remodel my life to suit myself.
Is that right? What If from the point of view of
God it's wrong? At two o'clock in the night my
husband came to me and said : ' You dare not go
away. I'll fetch you back through the police and
make a scandal.' And soon afterwards I saw him
The Tales of Chekhov
like a shadow at my door. ' Have mercy on me !
Your elopement may injure me in the service.'
Those words had a coarse effect upon me and made
me feel stiff all over. I felt as though the retribu-
tion were beginning already; 1 began crying and
trembling with terror. I felt as though the ceiling
would fall upon me, that I should be dragged off
to the police-station at once, that you would grow
cold to me — all sorts of things, in fact! I thought
I would go into a nunnery or become a nurse, and
give up all thought of happiness, but then I remem-
bered that you loved me, and that I had no right to
dispose of myself without your knowledge; and
everything in my mind was in a tangle — I was in
despair and did not know what to do or think.
But the sun rose and I grew happier. As soon as
it was morning I dashed off to you. Ah, what I've
been through, dear one ! I haven't slept for two
She was tired out and excited. She was sleepy,
and at the same time she wanted to talk -endlessly,
to laugh and to cry, and to go to a restaurant to
lunch that she might feel her freedom.
" You have a cosy flat, but I am afraid it may
be small for the two of us," she said, walking rapidly
through all the rooms when they had finished break-
fast. "What room will you give me? I like this
one because it is next to your study."
At one o'clock she changed her dress in the room
next to the study, which from that time she called
hers, and she went off with Orlov to lunch. They
dined, too, at a restaurant, and spent the long in-
An Anonymous Story 199
terval between lunch and dinner In shopping. Till
late at night I was opening the door to messengers
and errand-boys from the shops. They bought,
among other things, a splendid pier-glass, a dressing-
table, a bedstead, and a gorgeous tea service which
we did not need. They bought a regular collection
of copper saucepans, which we set in a row on the
shelf In our cold, empty kitchen. As we were un-
packing the tea service Polya's eyes gleamed, and
she looked at me two or three times with hatred
and fear that I, not she, would be the first to steal
one of these charming cups. A lady's writing-table,
very expensive and Inconvenient, came too. It was
evident that ZInaida Fyodorovna contemplated
settling with us for good, and meant to make the
flat her home.
She came back with Orlov between nine and ten.
Full of proud consciousness that she had done some-
thing bold and out of the common, passionately in
love, and, as she imagined, passionately loved, ex-
hausted, looking forward to a sweet sound sleep,
ZInaida Fyodorovna was revelling in her new life.
She squeezed her hands together In the excess of
her joy, declared that everything was delightful, and
swore that she would love Orlov for ever; and these
vows, and the naive, almost childish confidence that
she too was deeply loved and would be loved for
ever, made her at least five years younger. She
talked charming nonsense and laughed at herself.
*' There's no other blessing greater than free-
dom!" she said, forcing herself to say something
serious and edifying. " How absurd it is when you
200 The Tales of Chekhov
think of it I We attach no value to our own opinion
even when it is wise, but tremble before the opinion
of all sorts of stupid people. Up to the last minute
I was afraid of what other people would say, but
as soon as I followed my own instinct and made up
my mind to go my own way, my eyes were opened,
I overcame my silly fears, and now I am happy and
wish every one could be as happy! "
But her thoughts immediately took another turn,
and she began talking of another flat, of wallpapers,
horses, a trip to Switzerland and Italy. Orlov was
tired by the restaurants and the shops, and was still
suffering from the same uneasiness that I had noticed
in the morning. He smiled, but more from polite-
ness than pleasure, and when she spoke of anything
seriously, he agreed ironically: "Oh, yes."
" Stepan, make haste and find us a good cook,"
she said to me.
" There's no need to be in a hurry over the kitchen
arrangements," said Orlov, looking at me coldly.
*' We must first move into another flat."
We had never had cooking done at home nor kept
horses, because, as he said, " he did not like disorder
about him," and only put up with having Polya and
me in his flat from necessity. The so-called domes-
tic hearth with its everyday joys and its petty cares
offended his taste as vulgarity; to be with child, or
to have children and talk about them, was bad form,
like a petty bourgeois. And I began to feel very
curious to see how these two creatures would get
on together in one flat — she, domestic and home-
loving with her copper saucepans and her dreams of
An Anonymous Story 201
a good cook and horses; and he, fond of sayuig to
his friends that a decent and orderly man's flat ought,
like a warship, to have nothing in it superfluous —
no women, no children, no rags, no kitchen utensils.
Then I will tell you what happened the follow-
ing Thursday. That day Zinaida Fyodorovna
dined at Content's or Donon's. Orlov returned
home alone, and Zinaida Fyodorovna, as 1 learnt
afterwards, went to the Petersburg Side to spend
with her old governess the time visitors were with
us. Orlov did not care to show her to his friends.
I realised that at breakfast, when he began assuring
her that for the sake of her peace of mind it was
essential to give up his Thursday evenings.
As usual the visitors arrived at almost the same
"Is your mistress at home, too?" Kukushkin
asked me In a whisper.
" No, sir," I answered.
He went in with a sly, oily look In his eyes, smiling
mysteriously, rubbing his hands, which were cold
from the frost.
" I have the honour to congratulate you," he said
to Orlov, shaking all over with Ingratiating, obse-
quious laughter. " May you increase and multiply
like the cedars of Lebanon."
The visitors went into the bedroom, and were ex-
tremely jocose on the subject of a pair of feminine
slippers, the rug that had been put down between
202 The Tales of Chekhov
the two beds, and a grey dressing-jacket that hung
at the foot of the bedstead. They were amused
that the obstinate man who despised all the common
place details of love had been caught In feminine
snares in such a simple and ordinary way.
" He who pointed the finger of scorn is bowing
the knee In homage," Kukushkin repeated several
times. He had, I may say In parenthesis, an un-
pleasant habit of adorning his conversation with
texts In Church Slavonic. '' Sh-sh ! " he said as they
went from the bedroom Into the room next to the
study. '* Sh-sh ! Here Gretchen is dreaming of
He went off Into a peal of laughter as though
he had said something very amusing. I watched
Gruzin, expecting that his musical soul would not
endure this laughter, but I was mistaken. His thin,
good-natured face beamed with pleasure. When
they sat down to play cards, he, lisping and choking
with laughter, said that all that " dear George "
wanted to complete his domestic felicity was a cherry-
wood pipe and a guitar. Pekarsky laughed sedately,
but from his serious expression one could see that
Orlov's new love affair was distasteful to him. He
did not understand what had happened exactly.
" But how about the husband? " he asked In per-
plexity, after they had played three rubbers.
*' I don't know," answered Orlov.
Pekarsky combed his big beard with his fingers
and sank Into thought, and he did not speak again
till supper-time. When they were seated at supper,
he began deliberately, drawling every word :
An Anonymous Story 203
" Altogether, excuse my saying so, I don't under-
stand either of you. You might love each other and
break the seventh commandment to your heart's con-
tent — that I understand. Yes, that's comprehensi-
ble. But why make the husband a party to your
secrets? Was there any need for that? "
" But does it make any difference? "
*'Hm! . . ." Pekarsky mused. "Well, then,
let me tell you this, my friend," he went on, evi-
dently thinking hard: " if I ever marry again and
you take it into your head to seduce my wife, please
do it so that I don't notice it. It's much more
honest to deceive a man than to break up his family
life and injure his reputation. I understand. You
both imagine that in living together openly you are
doing something exceptionally honourable and ad-
vanced, but I can't agree with that . . . what shall
I call It? . . . romantic attitude?"
Orlov made no reply. He was out of humour
and disinclined to talk. Pekarsky, still perplexed,
drummed on the table with his fingers, thought a
little, and said:
" I don't understand you, all the same. You are
not a student and she Is not a dressmaker. You are
both of you people with means. I should have
thought you might have arranged a separate flat for
" No, I couldn't. Read Turgenev."
"Why should I read him? I have read him
" Turgenev teaches us in his novels that every
exalted, noble-minded girl should follow the man
204 The Tales of Chekhov
she loves to the ends of the earth, and should serve
his Idea," said Orlov, screwing up his eyes ironically.
" The ends of the earth are poetic license; the earth
and all Its ends can be reduced to the flat of the man
she loves. . . . And so not to live In the same flat
with the woman who loves you is to deny her her ex-
alted vocation and to refuse to share her ideals.
Yes, my dear fellow, Turgenev wrote, and I have to
suffer for it."
*' What Turgenev has got to do with it I don't
understand," said Gruzin softly, and he shrugged
his shoulders. " Do you remember, George, how
In * Three Meetings ' he is walking late in the
evening somewhere In Italy, and suddenly hears,
' Fieni pensando a me segretamente,^ ^' Gruzin
hummed. " It's fine."
" But she hasn't come to settle with you by force,"
said Pekarsky. " It was your own wish."
"What next! Far from wishing it, I never
imagined that this would ever happen. When she
said she was coming to live with me, I thought it
was a charming joke on her part."
" I couldn't have wished for such a thing," said
Orlov In the tone of a man compelled to justify
himself. " I am not a Turgenev hero, and If I ever
wanted to free Bulgaria I shouldn't need a lady's
company. I look upon love primarily as a necessity
of my physical nature, degrading and antagonistic
to my spirit; It must either be satisfied with discre-
tion or renounced altogether, otherwise it will bring
into one's life elements as unclean as itself. For it
An Anonymous Story 205
to be an enjoyment and not a torment, I will try to
make it beautiful and to surround it with a mass of
illusions. I should never go and see a woman unless
1 were sure beforehand that she would be beautiful
and fascinating; and I should never go unless I were
in the mood. And it is only in that way that we
succeed in deceiving one another, and fancying that
we are in love and happy. But can I wish for cop-
per saucepans and untidy hair, or like to be seen
myself when I am unwashed or out of humour?
Zinaida Fyodorovna in the simplicity of her heart
wants me to love what I have been shunning all
my life. She wants my flat to smell of cooking and
washing up; she wants all the fuss of moving into
another flat, of driving about with her own horses;
she wants to count over my Hnen and to look after
my health; she wants to meddle in my personal life
at every instant, and to watch over every step; and
at the same time she assures me genuinely that my
habits and my freedom will be untouched. She is
persuaded that, like a young couple, we shall very
soon go for a honeymoon — that is, she wants to
be with me all the time in trains and hotels, while
I like to read on the journey and cannot endure
talking in trains."
" You should give her a talking to," said Pekarsky.
*' What ! Do you suppose she would understand
me? Why, we think so differently. In her opinion,
to leave one's papa and mamma or one's husband
for the sake of the man one loves is the height of
civic virtue, while I look upon it as childish. To
fall in love and run away with a man to her means
206 The Tales of Chekhov
beginning a new life, while to my mind it means
nothing at all. Love and man constitute the chief
interest of her life, and possibly it is the philosophy
of the unconscious at work in her. Try and make
her believe that love is only a simple physical need,
like the need of food or clothes; that it doesn't mean
the end of the world if wives and husbands are un-
satisfactory; that a man may be a profligate and a
libertine, and yet a man of honour and a genius;
and that, on the other hand, one may abstain from
the pleasures of love and at the same time be a
stupid, vicious animal ! The civilised man of to-day,
even among the lower classes — for instance, the
French workman — spends ten sous on dinner, five
sous on his wine, and five or ten sous on woman, and
devotes his brain and nerves entirely to his work.
But Zinaida Fyodorovna assigns to love not so many
sous, but her whole soul. I might give her a talk-
ing to, but she would raise a wail in answer, and de-
clare In all sincerity that I had ruined her, that she
had nothing left to live for."
" Don't say anything to her," said Pekarsky,
" but simply take a separate flat for her, that's
" That's easy to say. ..."
There was a brief silence.
" But she is charming," said Kukushkin. " She
is exquisite. Such women imagine that they will
be in love for ever, and abandon themselves with
" But one must keep a head on one's shoulders,"
said Orlov; "one must be reasonable. All experi-
An Anonymous Story 207
ence gained from everyday life and handed down In
innumerable novels and plays, uniformly confirms
the fact that adultery and cohabitation of any sort
between decent people never lasts longer than two
or at most three years, however great the love may
have been at the beginning. That she ought to
know. And so all this business of moving, of sauce-
pans, hopes of eternal love and harmony, are nothing
but a desire to delude herself and me. She is charm-
ing and exquisite — who denies it? But she has
turned my life upside down; what I have regarded as
trivial and nonsensical till now she has forced me to
raise to the level of a serious problem; I serve an
Idol whom I have never looked upon as God. She
is charming — exquisite, but for some reason now
when I am going home, I feel uneasy, as though I
expected to meet with something inconvenient at
home, such as workmen pulling the stove to pieces
and blocking up the place with heaps of bricks. In
fact, I am no longer giving up to love a sous, but
part of my peace of mind and my nerves. And
" And she doesn't hear this villain ! " sighed Ku-
kushkln. " My dear sir," he said theatrically, " I
will relieve you from the burdensome obligation to
love that adorable creature ! I will wrest Zinalda
Fyodorovna from you! "
" You may . . ." said Orlov carelessly.
For half a minute Kukushkin laughed a shrill lit-
tle laugh, shaking all over, then he said:
'' Look out; I am In earnest! Don't you play the
Othello afterwards! "
208 The Tales of Chekhov
They all began talking of Kukushkln's Indefatiga-
ble energy In love affairs, how irresistible he was to
women, and what a danger he was to husbands; and
how the devil would roast him in the other world
for his Immorality In this. He screwed up his eyes
and remained silent, and when the names of ladles
of their acquaintance were mentioned, he held up
his little finger — as though to say they mustn't give
away other people's secrets.
Orlov suddenly looked at his watch.
His friends understood, and began to take their
leave. I remember that Gruzin, who was a little
drunk, was wearisomely long in getting off. He put
on his coat, which was cut like children's coats in
poor families, pulled up the collar, and began telling
some long-winded story; then, seeing he was not
listened to, he flung the rug that smelt of the nursery
over one shoulder, and with a guilty and Imploring
face begged me to find his hat.
'' George, my angel," he said tenderly. " Do as
I ask you, dear boy; come out of town with us ! "
" You can go, but I can't. I am In the position of
a married man now."
" She is a dear, she won't be angry. My dear
chief, come along! It's glorious weather; there's
snow and frost. . . . Upon my word, you want
shaking up a bit; you are out of humour. I don't
know what the devil Is the matter with you. ..."
Orlov stretched, yawned, and looked at Pekarsky.
" Are you going? " he said, hesitating.
" I don't know. Perhaps."
" Shall I get drunk? All right. Til come," said
An Anonymous Story 209
Orlov after some hesitation. " Wait a minute; I'll
get some money."
He went into the study, and Gruzin slouched in,
too, dragging his rug after him. A minute later
both came back into the hall. Gruzin, a little drunk
and very pleased, was crumpling a ten-rouble note
in his hands.
" We'll settle up to-morrow," he said. " And
she is kind, she won't be cross. . . . She is my
Lisotchka's godmother; I am fond of her, poor
thing! Ah, my dear fellow! " he laughed joyfully,
and pressing his forehead on Pekarsky's back.
"Ah, Pekarsky, my dear soul! Advocatissimus —
as dry as a biscuit, but you bet he is fond of
women. . . ."
" Fat ones," said Orlov, putting on his fur coat.
" But let us get off, or we shall be meeting her on
^' ' Vieni pensando a me segretamente,^ ^^ hummed
At last they drove off: Orlov did not sleep at
home, and returned next day at dinner-time.
Zinaida Fyodorovna had lost her gold watch, a
present from her father. This loss surprised and
alarmed her. She spent half a day going through
the rooms, looking helplessly on all the tables and
on all the windows. But the watch had disappeared
Only three days afterwards Zinaida Fyodorovna,
210 The Tales of Chekhov
on coming In, left her purse in the hall. Luckily for
me, on that occasion it was not I but Polya who
helped her off with her coat. When the purse was
missed. It could not be found In the hall.
'' Strange," said Zinalda Fyodorovna in bewilder-
ment. *' I distinctly remember taking It out of my
pocket to pay the cabman . . . and then I put it
here near the looking-glass. It's very odd! "
I had not stolen It, but I felt as though I had
stolen it and had been caught in the theft. Tears
actually came into my eyes. When they were seated
at dinner, Zinalda Fyodorovna said to Orlov In
** There seem to be spirits In the flat. I lost my
purse In the hall to-day, and now, lo and behold, it
is on my table. But it's not quite a disinterested
trick of the spirits. They took out a gold coin and
twenty roubles in notes."
*' You are always losing something; first It's your
watch and then It's your money . . ." said Orlov.
'* Why is it nothing of the sort ever happens to me ? "
A minute later Zinalda Fyodorovna had forgotten
the trick played by the spirits, and was telling with a
laugh how the week before she had ordered some
notepaper and had forgotten to give her new ad-
dress, and the shop had sent the paper to her old
home at her husband's, who had to pay twelve rou-
bles for It. And suddenly she turned her eyes on
Polya and looked at her Intently. She blushed as
she did so, and was so confused that she began talk-
ing of something else.
When I took in the coffee to the study, Orlov was
An Anonymous Story 211
standing with his back to the fire and she was sitting
in an arm-chair facing him.
" I am not in a bad temper at all," she was saying
in French. " But I have been putting things to-
gether, and now I see it clearly. I can give you the
day and the hour when she stole my watch. And
the purse? There can be no doubt about it. Oh!"
she laughed as she took the coffee from me. " Now
I understand why I am always losing my handker-
chiefs and gloves. Whatever you say, I shall dis-
miss the magpie to-morrow and send Stepan for my
Sofya. She is not a thief and has not got such a
. . . repulsive appearance."
*' You are out of humour. To-morrow you will
feel differently, and will realise that you can't dis-
charge people simply because you suspect them."
" It's not suspicion; it's certainty," said Zinalda
Fyodorovna. " So long as I suspected that unhappy-
faced, poor-looking valet of yours, I said nothing.
It's too bad of you not to believe me, GeorgeJ'
" If we think differently about anything, it doesn't
follow that I don't believe you. You may be right,"
said Orlov, turning round and flinging his cigarette-
end into the fire, *' but there Is no need to be excited
about It, anyway. In fact, I must say, I never ex-
pected my humble establishment would cause you so
much serious worry and agitation. You've lost a
gold coin : never mind — you may have a hundred
of mine; but to change my habits, to pick up a new
housemaid, to wait till she is used to the place — all
that's a tedious, tiring business and does not suit me.
Our present maid certainly is fat, and has, perhaps,
212 The Tales of Chekhov
a weakness for gloves and handkerchiefs, but she Is
perfectly well behaved, well trained, and does not
shriek when Kukushkin pinches her."
"You mean that you can't part with her? . . .
Why don't you say so? "
*' Are you jealous? "
*' Yes, I am," said Zinaida Fyodorovna, decidedly.
" Thank you."
*' Yes, I am jealous," she repeated, and tears glis-
tened in her eyes. " No, it's something worse . . .
which I find it difficult to find a name for." She
pressed her hands on her temples, and went on im-
pulsively. "You men are so disgusting! It's hor-
" I see nothing horrible about it."
" I've not seen it; I don't know; but they say that
you men begin with housemaids as boys, and get so
used to it that you feel no repugnance. I don't
know, I don't know, but I have actually read . . .
George^ of course you are right," she said, going up
to Orlov and changing to a caressing and imploring
tone. " I really am out of humour to-day. But,
you must understand, I can't help it. She disgusts
me and I am afraid of her. It makes me miserable
to see her."
" Surely you can rise above such paltriness? " said
Orlov, shrugging his shoulders in perplexity, and
walking away from the fire. " Nothing could be
simpler: take no notice of her, and then she won't
disgust you, and you won't need to make a regular
tragedy out of a trifle."
1 went out of the study, and I don't know what
An Anonymous Story 213
answenOrlov received. Whatever it was, Polya re-
mained. After that Zinaida Fyodorovna never ap-
plied to her for anything, and evidently tried to dis-
pense with her services. When Polya handed her
anything or even passed by her, jingling her bangle
and rustling her skirts, she shuddered.
I beheve that if Gruzin or Pekarsky had asked
Orlov to dismiss Polya he would have done so with-
out the slightest hesitation, without troubling about
any explanations. He was easily persuaded, like all
indifferent people. But in his relations with Zinaida
Fyodorovna he displayed for some reason, even in
trifles, an obstinacy which sometimes was almost irra-
tional. I knew beforehand that if Zinaida Fyodor-
ovna liked anything, it would be certain not to please
Orlov. When on coming in from shopping she
made haste to show him with pride some new pur-
chase, he would glance at it and say coldly that the
more unnecessary objects they had in the flat, the less
airy it would be. It sometimes happened that after
putting on his dress clothes to go out somewhere, and
after saying good-bye to Zinaida Fyodorovna, he
would suddenly change his mind and remain at home
from sheer perversity. I used to think that he re-
mained at home then simply in order to feel injured.
"Why are you staying?" said Zinaida Fyodor-
ovna, with a show of vexation, though at the same
timxe she was radiant with delight. " Why do you?
You are not accustomed to spending your evenings
at home, and I don't want you to alter your habits on
my account. Do go out as usual, if you don't want
me to feel guilty."
214 The Tales of Chekhov
" No one Is blaming you," said Orlov.
With the air of a victim he stretched himself In
his easy-chair in the study, and shading his eyes with
his hand, took up a book. But soon the book
dropped from his hand, he turned heavily in his
chair, and again screened his eyes as though from the
sun. Now he felt annoyed that he had not gone out.
"May I come In?" Zinaida Fyodorovna would
say, coming irresolutely into the study. '' Are you
reading? I felt dull by myself, and have come just
for a minute ... to have a peep at you."
I remember one evening she went In like that, ir-
resolutely and Inappropriately, and sank on the rug
at Orlov's feet, and from her soft, timid movements
one could see that she did not understand his mood
and was afraid.
" You are always reading . . ." she said cajol-
Ingly, evidently wishing to flatter him. " Do you
know, George^ what Is one of the secrets of your suc-
cess? You are very clever and well-read. What
book have you there? "
Orlov answered. A silence followed for some
minutes which seemed to me very long. I was stand-
ing in the drawing-room, from which I could watch
them, and was afraid of coughing.
" There Is something I wanted to tell you," said
Zinaida Fyodorovna, and she laughed; ''shall I?
Very likely you'll laugh and say that I flatter myself.
You know I want, I want horribly to believe that you
are staying at home to-night for my sake . . . that
we might spend the evening together. Yes? May
I think so?"
An Anonymous Story 215
** Do," he said, screening his eyes. '^ The really
happy man is he who thinks not only of what is, but
of what is not."
" That was a long sentence which I did not quite
understand. You mean happy people live in their
imagination. Yes, that's true. I love to sit in your
study in the evening and let my thoughts carry me
far, far away. . . . It's pleasant sometimes to
dream. Let us dream aloud, George.'^
*' I've never been at a girls' boarding-school; I
never learnt the art."
" You are out of humour? " said Zinaida Fyodor-
ovna, taking Orlov's hand. " Tell me why. When
you are like that, I'm afraid. I don't know whether
your head aches or whether you are angry with
me. . . ."
Again there was a silence lasting several long min-
'* Why have you changed?" she said softly.
** Why are you never so tender or so gay as you used
to be at Znamensky Street? I've been with you
almost a month, but It seems to me as though we had
not yet begun to live, and have not yet talked of any-
thing as we ought to. You always answer me with
jokes or else with a long cold lecture like a teacher.
And there is something cold In your jokes. . . .
Why have you given up talking to me seriously? "
" I always talk seriously."
" Well, then, let us talk. For God's sake,
George. . . . Shall we?"
*' Certainly, but about what? "
*' Let us talk of our life, of our future," said
2i6 The Tales of Chekhov
ZInalda Fyodorovna dreamily. " I keep making
plans for our life, plans and plans — and I enjoy
doing it so ! George, I'll begin with the question,
when are you going to give up your post? "
" What for? " asked Orlov, taking his hand from
" With your views you cannot remain in the serv-
ice. You are out of place there."
"My views?" Orlov repeated. "My views?
In conviction and temperament I am an ordinary
official, one of Shtchedrln's heroes. You take me
for something different, I venture to assure you."
" Joking again, George! '^
" Not in the least. The service does not satisfy
me, perhaps; but, anyway, it is better for me than
anything else. I am used to it, and in it I meet men
of my own sort; I am in my place there and find it
" You hate the service and it revolts you."
" Indeed? If I resign my post, take to dream-
ing aloud and letting myself be carried away Into
another world, do you suppose that that world would
be less hateful to me than the service? "
" You are ready to libel yourself in order to con-
tradict me." ZInalda Fyodorovna was offended and
got up. " I am sorry I began this talk."
" Why are you angry? I am not angry with you
for not being an official. Every one lives as he likes
"Why, do you live as you like best? Are you
free? To spend your life writing documents that
are opposed to your own ideas," ZInalda Fyodor-
An Anonymous Story 217
ovna went on, clasping her hands in despair: "to
submit to authority, congratulate your superiors at
the New Year, and then cards and nothing but cards :
worst of all, to be working for a system which must
be distasteful to you — no, George, no ! You
should not make such horrid jokes. It's dreadful.
You are a man of ideas, and you ought to be work-
ing for your ideas and nothing else."
" You really take me for quite a different person
from what I am," sighed Orlov.
" Say simply that you don't want to talk to me.
You dislike me, that's all," said Zinaida Fyodorovna
through her tears.
" Look here, my dear," said Orlov admonishingly,
sitting up in his chair. " You were pleased to ob-
serve yourself that I am a clever, well-read man,
and to teach one who knows does nothing but harm.
I knov/ very well all the ideas, great and small, which
you mean when you call me a man of ideas. So if
I prefer the service and cards to those ideas, you
may be sure I have good grounds for it. That's one
thing. Secondly, you have, so far as I know, never
been in the service, and can only have drawn your
ideas of Government service from anecdotes and in-
different novels. So it would not be amiss for us to
make a compact, once for all, not to talk of things
we know already or of things about which we are
not competent to speak."
" Why do you speak to me like that? " said Zin-
aida Fyodorovna, stepping back as though in horror.
"What for? George, for God's sake, think what
you are saying! "
2i8 The Tales of Chekhov
Her voice quivered and broke; she was evidently
trying to restrain her tears, but she suddenly broke
'^ George, my darling, I am perishing! " she said
in French, dropping down before Orlov, and laying
her head on his knees. " I am miserable, I am ex-
hausted. I can't bear it, I can't bear it. . . . In
my childhood my hateful, depraved stepmother, then
my husband, now you . . . you ! . . . You meet my
mad love with coldness and irony. . . . And that
horrible, insolent servant," she went on, sobbing.
" Yes, yes, I see : I am not your wife nor your friend,
but a woman you don't respect because she has be-
come your mistress. ... I shall kill myself! "
I had not expected that her w^ords and her tears
would make such an impression on Orlov. He
flushed, moved uneasily in his chair, and instead
of irony, his face wore a look of stupid, school-
" My darling, you misunderstood me," he mut-
tered helplessly, touching her hair and her shoulders.
'* Forgive me, I entreat you. I was unjust . . .
and I hate myself."
*' I insult you with my whining and complaints.
. . . You are a true, generous . . . rare man — I
am conscious of it every minute; but Fve been hor-
ribly depressed for the last few days. . . ."
Zinaida Fyodorovna impulsively embraced Orlov
and kissed him on the cheek.
" Only please don't cry," he said.
" No, no. . . . I've had my cry, and now I am
An Anonymous Story 219
" As for the servant, she shall be gone to-mor-
row," he said, still moving uneasily In his chair.
" No, she must stay, George! Do you hear? I
am not afraid of her now. . . . One must rise above
trifles and not imagine silly things. You are right!
You are a wonderful, rare person! "
She soon left off crying. With tears glistening
on her eyelashes, sitting on Orlov's knee, she told
him in a low voice something touching, something
like a reminiscence of childhood and youth. She
stroked his face, kissed him, and carefully examined
his hands with the rings on them and the charms on
his watch-chain. She was carried away by what she
was saying, and by being near the man she loved,
and probably because her tears had cleared and re-
freshed her soul, there was a note of wonderful can-
dour and sincerity In her voice. And Orlov played
with her chestnut hair and kissed her hands, noise-
lessly pressing them to his lips.
Then they had tea in the study, and Zlnaida Fy-
odorovna read aloud some letters. Soon after mid-
night they went to bed.
I had a fearful pain in my side that night, and
could not get warm or go to sleep till morning. I
could hear Orlov go from the bedroom into his
study. After sitting there about an hour, he rang
the bell. In my pain and exhaustion I forgot all the
rules and conventions, and went to his study In my
night attire, barefooted. Orlov, in his dressing-
gown and cap, was standing In the doorway, waiting
** When you are sent for you should come dressed,"
220 The Tales of Chekhov
he said sternly. " Bring some fresh candles."
I was about to apologise, but suddenly broke into
a violent cough, and clutched at the side of the door
to save myself from falling.
"Are you 111? " said Orlov.
I believe it was the first time of our acquaintance
that he addressed me not In the singular — goodness
knows why. Most likely, in my night clothes and
with my face distorted by coughing, I played my
part poorly, and was very little like a flunkey.
" If you are 111, why do you take a place ? " he said.
" That I may not die of starvation," I answered.
" How disgusting It all is, really! " he said softly,
going up to his table.
While hurriedly getting Into my coat, I put up and
lighted fresh candles. He was sitting at the table,
with feet stretched out on a low chair, cutting a book.
I left him deeply engrossed, and the book did not
drop out of his hands as it had done in the evening.
Now that I am writing these lines I am restrained
by that dread of appearing sentimental and ridicu-
lous. In which I have been trained from childhood;
when I want to be affectionate or to say anything
tender, I don't know how to be natural. And It is
that dread, together with lack of practice, that pre-
vents me from being able to express with perfect
clearness what was passing In my soul at that time.
I was not in love with Zinaida Fyodorovna, but
in the ordinary human feeling I had for her, there
An Anonymous Story 221
was far more youth, freshness, and joyousness than
in Orlov's love.
As I worked in the morning, cleaning boots or
sweeping the rooms, I waited with a thrill at my
heart for the moment when I should hear her voice
and her footsteps. To stand watching her as she
drank her coffee in the morning or ate her lunch, to
hold her fur coat for her in the hall, and to put the
goloshes on her little feet while she rested her hand
on my shoulder; then to wait till the hall porter rang
up for me, to meet her at the door, cold, and rosy,
powdered with the snow, to listen to her brief excla-
mations about the frost or the cabman — if only you
knew how much all that meant to me ! I longed to
be in love, to have a wife and child of my own. I
wanted my future wife to have just such a face, such
a voice. I dreamed of it at dinner, and in the street
when I was sent on some errand, and when I lay
awake at night. Orlov rejected with disgust chil-
dren, cooking, copper saucepans, and feminine knick-
knacks, and I gathered them all up, tenderly cher-
ished them In my dreams, loved them, and begged
them of destiny. I had visions of a wife, a nursery,
a little house with garden paths. . . .
I knew that If I did love her I could never dare
to hope for the miracle of her returning my love, but
that reflection did not worry me. In my quiet, mod-
est feeling akin to ordinary affection, there was no
jealousy of Orlov or even envy of him, since I real-
ised that for a wreck like me happiness was only to
be found in dreams.
When Zinaida Fyodorovna sat up night after night
222 The Tales of Chekhov
for her George, looking immovably at a book of
which she never turned a page, or when she shud-
dered and turned pale at Polya's crossing the room,
I suffered with her, and the idea occurred to me to
lance this festering wound as quickly as possible by
letting her know what was said here at supper on
.Thursdays ; but — how was it to be done ? More
and more often I saw her tears. For the first weeks
she laughed and sang to herself, even when Orlov
was not at home, but by the second month there was
a mournful stillness in our flat broken only on Thurs-
She flattered Orlov, and to wring from him a coun-
terfeit smile or kiss, was ready to go on her knees
to him, to fawn on him like a dog. Even when her
heart was heaviest, she could not resist glancing into
a looking-glass if she passed one and straightening
her hair. It seemed strange to me that she could
still take an interest in clothes and go into ecstasies
over her purchases. It did not seem in keeping with
her genuine grief. She paid attention to the fash-
Ions and ordered expensive dresses. What for?
On whose account? I particularly remember one
dress which cost four hundred roubles. To give
four hundred roubles for an unnecessary, useless
dress while women for their hard day's work get
only twenty kopecks a day without food, and the
makers of Venice and Brussels lace are only paid
half a franc a day on the supposition that they can
earn the rest by immorality! And it seemed strange
to me that Zinaida Fyodorovna was not conscious of
it; It vexed me. But she had only to go out of the
An Anonymous Story 223
house for me to find excuses and explanations for
everything, and to be waiting eagerly for the hall
porter to ring for me.
She treated me as a flunkey, a being of a lower
order. One may pat a dog, and yet not notice It;
I was given orders and asked questions, but my pres-
ence was not observed. My master and mistress
thought it unseemly to say more to me than Is usually
said to servants; if when waiting at dinner I had
laughed or put in my word in the conversation, they
would certainly have thought I was mad and have
dismissed me. Zinaida Fyodorovna was favourably
disposed to me, all the same. When she was send-
ing me on some errand or explaining to me the work-
ing of a new lamp or anything of that sort, her face
was extraordinarily kind, frank, and cordial, and her
eyes looked me straight in the face. At such mo-
ments I always fancied she remembered with grati-
tude how I used to bring her letters to Znamensky
Street. When she rang the bell, Polya, who con-
sidered me her favourite and hated me for it, used
to say with a jeering smile:
*' Go along, your mistress wants you."
Zinaida Fyodorovna considered me as a being of
a lower order, and did not suspect that If any one In
the house were in a humiliating position It was she.
She did not know that I, a footman, was unhappy on
her account, and used to ask myself twenty times a
day what was In store for her and how It would all
end. Things were growing visibly worse day by
day. After the evening on which they had talked of
his official work, Orlov, who could not endure tears,
224 The Tales of Chekhov
unmistakably began to avoid conversation with her;
whenever Zlnalda Fyodorovna began to argue, or to
beseech him, or seemed on the point of crying, he
seized some plausible excuse for retreating to his
study or going out. He more and more rarely slept
at home, and still more rarely dined there : on Thurs-
days he was the one to suggest some expedition to
his friends. Zlnalda Fyodorovna was still dreaming
of having the cooking done at home, of moving to a
new flat, of travelling abroad, but her dreams re-
mained dreams. Dinner was sent in from the res-
taurant. Orlov asked her not to broach the ques-
tion of moving until after they had come back from
abroad, and apropos of their foreign tour, declared
that they could not go till his hair had grown long,
as one could not go trailing from hotel to hotel
and serving the idea without long hair.
To crown it all, in Orlov's absence, Kukushkln
began calling at the flat in the evening. JThere was
nothing exceptional in his behaviour, but I could
never forget the conversation in which he had offered
to cut Orlov out. He was regaled with tea and red
wine, and he used to titter and, anxious to say some-
thing pleasant, would declare that a free union was
superior in every respect to legal marriage, and that
all decent people ought really to come to Zlnalda
Fyodorovna and fall at her feet.
Christmas was spent drearily In vague anticipa-
tions of calamity. On New Year's Eve Orlov un-
An Anonymous Story 225
expectedly announced at breakfast that he was being
sent to assist a senator who was on a revising com-
mission in a certain province.
'* I don't want to go, but I can't find an excuse
to get off," he said with vexation. " I must go;
there's nothing for it."
Such news instantly made Zinaida Fyodorovna's
eyes look red. " Is it for long? " she asked.
" Five days or so."
*' I am glad, really, you are going," she said after
a moment's thought. " It will be a change for you.
You will fall in love with some one on the way, and
tell me about it afterwards."
At every opportunity she tried to make Orlov feel
that she did not restrict his liberty in any way, and
that he could do exactly as he liked, and this artless,
transparent strategy deceived no one, and only un-
necessarily reminded Orlov that he was not free.
*' I am going this evening," he said, and began
reading the paper.
Zinaida Fyodorovna wanted to see him off at the
station, but he dissuaded her, saying that he was not
going to America, and not going to be away five
years, but only five days — possibly less.
The parting took place between seven and eight.
He put one arm round her, and kissed her on the lips
and on the forehead.
*' Be a good girl, and don't be depressed while I
am away," he said in a warm, affectionate tone which
touched even me. *' God keep you ! "
She looked greedily into his face, to stamp his dear
features on her memory, then she put her arms grace-
226 The Tales of Chekhov
fully round his neck and laid her head on his breast.
" Forgive me our misunderstandings," she said in
French. " Husband and wife cannot help quar-
relling if they love each other, and I love you madly.
Don't forget me. . . . Wire to me often and fully."
Orlov kissed her once more, and, without saying a
word, went out in confusion. When he heard the
click of the lock as the door closed, he stood still in
the middle of the staircase in hesitation and glanced
upwards. It seemed to me that if a sound had
reached him at that moment from above, he would
have turned back. But all was quiet. He straight-
ened his coat and went downstairs irresolutely.
The sledges had been waiting a long while at the
door. Orlov got into one, I got into the other with
two portmanteaus. It was a hard frost and there
were fires smoking at the cross-roads. The cold
wind nipped my face and hands, and took my breath
away as we drove rapidly along; and, closing my
eyes, I thought what a splendid woman she was.
How she loved him ! Even useless rubbish is col-
lected in the courtyards nowadays and used for some
purpose, even broken glass is considered a useful
commodity, but something so precious, so rare, as
the love of a refined, young, Intelligent, and good
woman is utterly thrown away and wasted. One of
the early sociologists regarded every evil passion as
a force which might by judicious management be
turned to good, while among us even a fine, noble
passion springs up and dies away in impotence,
turned to no account, misunderstood or vulgarised.
Why Is it?
An Anonymous Story 227
The sledges stopped unexpectedly. I opened my
eyes and I saw that we had come to a standstill in
Sergievsky Street, near a big house where Pekarsky
lived. Orlov got out of the sledge and vanished into
the entry. Five minutes later Pekarsky's footman
came out, bareheaded, and, angry with the frost,
shouted to me :
"Are you deaf? Pay the cabmen and go up-
stairs. You are wanted!"
At a complete loss, I went to the first storey. I
had been to Pekarsky's flat before — that is, I had
stood in the hall and looked into the drawing-room,
and, after the damp, gloomy street, it always struck
me by the brilliance of its picture-frames, its bronzes
and expensive furniture. To-day in the midst of
this splendour I saw Gruzin, Kukushkin, and, after
a minute, Orlov.
*' Look here, Stepan," he said, coming up to me.
" I shall be staying here till Friday or Saturday. If
any letters or telegrams come, you must bring them
here every day. At home, of course you will say that I
have gone, and send my greetings. Now you can go."
When I reached home Zinaida Fyodorovna was
lying on the sofa in the drawing-room, eating a pear.
There was only one candle burning in the candelabra.
*' Did you catch the train?" asked Zinaida Fy-
" Yes, madam. His honour sends his greetings."
I went into my room and I, too, lay down. I had
nothing to do, and I did not want to read. I was
not surprised and I was not indignant. I only
racked my brains to think why this deception was
228 The Tales of Chekhov
necessary. It is only boys In their teens who de-
ceive their mistresses like that. How was it that a
man who had thought and read so much could not
imagine anything more sensible? I must confess I
had by no means a poor opinion of his intelligence.
I believe if he had had to deceive his minister or any
other influential person he would have put a great
deal of skill and energy into doing so; but to deceive
a woman, the first idea that occurred to him was
evidently good enough. If it succeeded — well and
good; if it did not, there would be no harm done —
he could tell some other lie just as quickly and simply,
with no mental effort.
At midnight when the people on the floor over-
head were moving their chairs and shouting hurrah
to welcome the New Year, ZInalda Fyodorovna rang
for me from the room next to the study. Languid
from lying down so long, she was sitting at the table,
writing something on a scrap of paper.
" I must send a telegram," she said, with a smile.
*' Go to the station as quick as you can and ask them
to send It after him."
Going out into the street, I read on the scrap of
" May the New Year bring new happiness.
Make haste and telegraph; I miss you dreadfully.
It seems an eternity. I am only sorry I can't send
a thousand kisses and my very heart by telegraph.
Enjoy yourself, my darling. — ZiNA."
I sent the telegram, and next morning I gave her
An Anonymous Story 229
The worst of It was that Orlov had thoughtlessly
let Polya, too, into the secret of his deception, telling
her to bring his shirts to Sergievsky Street. After
that, she looked at Zinaida Fyodorovna with a ma-
lignant joy and hatred I could not understand, and
was never tired of snorting with delight to herself in
her own room and In the hall.
" She's outstayed her welcome; It's time she took
herself off! " she would say with zest. " She ought
to realise that herself. . . ."
She already divined by instinct that Zinaida Fy-
odorovna would not be with us much longer, and,
not to let the chance slip, carried off everything she
set her eyes on — smelling-bottles, tortoise-shell
hairpins, handkerchiefs, shoes ! On the day after
New Year's Day, Zinaida Fyodorovna summoned
me to her room and told me in a low voice that she
missed her black dress. And then she walked
through all the rooms, with a pale, frightened, and
Indignant face, talking to herself:
'^ It's too much! It's beyond everything. Why,
it's unheard-of Insolence ! "
At dinner she tried to help herself to soup, but
could not — her hands were trembling. Her lips
were trembling, too. She looked helplessly at the
soup and at the little pies, waiting for the trembling
to pass off, and suddenly she could not resist looking
" You can go, Polya," she said. " Stepan is
enough by himself."
230 The Tales of Chekhov
" I'll stay; I don't mind," answered Polya.
" There's no need for you to stay. You go away
altogether," ZInalda Fyodorovna went on, getting
up in great agitation. " You may look out for an-
other place. You can go at once."
" I can't go away without the master's orders.
He engaged me. It must be as he orders."
" You can take orders from me, too! I am mis-
tress here!" said Zinaida Fyodorovna, and she
" You may be the mistress, but only the master
can dismiss me. It was he engaged me."
** You dare not stay here another minute! " cried
Zinaida Fyodorovna, and she struck the plate with
her knife. *' You are a thief ! Do you hear? "
Zinaida Fyodorovna flung her dinner-napkin on
the table, and with a pitiful, suffering face, went
quickly out of the room. Loudly sobbing and wail-
ing something indistinct, Polya, too, went away.
The soup and the grouse got cold. And for some
reason all the restaurant dainties on the table struck
me as poor, thievish, like Polya. Two pies on a
plate had a particularly miserable and guilty air.
"" We shall be taken back to the restaurant to-day,"
they seemed to be saying, " and to-morrow we shall
be put on the table again for some official or cele-
" She is a fine lady, indeed," I heard uttered in
Polya's room. *' I could have been a lady like that
long ago, but I have some self-respect! We'll see
which of us will be the first to go ! "
Zinaida Fyodorovna rang the bell. She was sit-
An Anonymous Story 231
ting in her room, In the corner, looking as though she
had been put in the corner as a punishment.
*' No telegram has come? " she asked.
" No, madam."
*' Ask the porter; perhaps there Is a telegram.
And don't leave the house," she called after me. " I
am afraid to be left alone."
After that I had to run down almost every hour
to ask the porter whether a telegram had come. I
must own It was a dreadful time ! To avoid seeing
Polya, ZInaida Fyodorovna dined and had tea In her
own room; it was here that she slept, too, on a short
sofa like a half-moon, and she made her own bed.
For the first days I took the telegrams; but, get-
ting no answer, she lost her faith in me and began
telegraphing herself. Looking at her, I, too, began
Impatiently hoping for a telegram. I hoped he
would contrive some deception, would make arrange-
ments, for Instance, that a telegram should be sent
to her from some station. If he were too much en-
grossed with cards or had been attracted by some
other woman, I thought that both Gruzin and Ku-
kushkin would remind him of us. But our expecta-
tions were vain. Five times a day I would go in to
ZInaida Fyodorovna, intending to tell her the truth,
but her eyes looked piteous as a faw^n's, her shoul-
ders seemed to droop, her lips were moving, and F
went away again without saying a word. Pity and
sympathy seemed to rob me of all manliness. Polya,
as cheerful and well satisfied with herself as though
nothing had happened, was tidying the master's
study and the bedroom, rummaging in the cupboards,
232 The Tales of Chekhov
and making the crockery jingle, and when she passed
Zinaida Fyodorovna's door, she hummed something
and coughed. She was pleased that her mistress
was hiding from her. In the evening she would go
out somewhere, and rang at two or three o'clock in
the morning, and I had to open the door to her and
listen to remarks about my cough. Immediately
afterwards I would hear another ring; I would run
to the room next to the study, and Zinaida Fyodor-
ovna, putting her head out of the door, would ask,
" Who was it rung? " while she looked at my hands
to see whether I had a telegram.
When at last on Saturday the bell rang below
and she heard the familiar voice on the stairs, she
was so delighted that she broke Into sobs. She
rushed to meet him, embraced him, kissed him on
the breast and sleeves, said something one could not
understand. The hall porter brought up the port-
manteaus; Polya's cheerful voice was heard. It was
as though some one had come home for the holi-
" Why didn't you wire? " asked Zinaida Fyodor-
ovna, breathless with joy. " Why was It? I have
been in misery; I don't know how I've lived through
it. . . . Oh, my God!"
" It was very simple ! I returned with the sena-
tor to Moscow the very first day, and didn't get your
telegrams," said Orlov. " After dinner, my love,
I'll give you a full account of my doings, but now
I must sleep and sleep. ... I am worn out with the
An Anonymous Story 233
It was evident that he had not slept all night; he
had probably been playing cards and drinking freely.
Zinaida Fyodorovna put him to bed, and we all
walked about on tiptoe all that day. The dinner
went off quite satisfactorily, but when they went into
the study and had coffee the explanation began.
Zinaida Fyodorovna began talking of something rap-
idly In a low voice; she spoke in French, and her
words flowed like a stream. Then I heard a loud
sigh from Orlov, and his voice.
^' My God!" he said In French. "Have you
really nothing fresher to tell me than this everlasting
tale of your servant's misdeeds? "
" But, my dear, she robbed me and said insulting
things to me."
" But why Is it she doesn't rob me or say Insulting
things to me? Why is it I never notice the maids
nor the porters nor the footmen? My dear, you
are simply capricious and refuse to know your own
mind. ... I really begin to suspect that you must
be In a certain condition. When I offered to let her
go, you Insisted on her remaining, and now you want
me to turn her away. I can be obstinate, too. In
such cases. You want her to go, but I want her to
remain. That's the only way to cure you of your
" Oh, very w^ell, very well," said Zinaida Fyodor-
ovna In alarm. " Let us say no more about that.
. . . Let us put It off till to-morrow. . . . Now tell
me about Moscow. . . . What is going on in Mos-
234 The Tales of Chekhov
After lunch next day — it was the seventh of Jan-
uary, St. John the Baptist's Day — Orlov put on his
black dress coat and his decoration to go to visit his
father and congratulate him on his name day. He
had to go at two o'clock, and it was only half-past
one when he had finished dressing. What was he
to do for that half-hour? He walked about the
drawing-room, declaiming some congratulatory
verses which he had recited as a child to his father
Zinaida Fyodorovna, who was just going out to a
dressmaker's or to the shops, was sitting, listening
to him with a smile. I don't know how their con-
versation began, but when 1 took Orlov his gloves,
he was standing before her with a capricious, be-
seeching face, saying:
" For God's sake, in the name of everything that's
holy, don't talk of things that everybody knows!
What an unfortunate gift our intellectual thoughtful
ladies have for talking with enthusiasm and an air
of profundity of things that every schoolboy is sick
to death of! Ah, if only you would exclude from
our conjugal programme all these serious questions!
How grateful I should be to you! "
" We women may not dare, it seems, to have
views of our own."
" I give you full liberty to be as liberal as you
like, and quote from any authors you choose, but
make me one concession : don't hold forth in my
presence on either of two subjects: the corruption
An xAnonymous Story 235
of the upper classes and the evils of the marriage
system. Do understand me, at last. The upper
class Is always abused in contrast with the world of
tradesmen, priests, workmen and peasants, Sidors
and NIkltas of all sorts. I detest both classes, but
If I had honesty to choose between the two, I should
without hesitation, prefer the upper class, and there
would be no falsity or affectation about it, since all
my tastes are In that direction. Our world Is trivial
and empty, but at any rate we speak French decently,
read something, and don't punch each other In the
ribs even In our most violent quarrels, while the
Sidors and the NIkltas and their worships in trade
talk about ' being quite agreeable,' * In a jiffy/ * blast
your eyes,' and display the utmost license of pot-
house manners and the most degrading supersti-
" The peasant and the tradesman feed you."
*' Yes, but what of It? That's not only to my
discredit, but to theirs too. They feed me and take
off their caps to me, so it seems they have not the
Intelligence and honesty to do otherwise. I don't
blame or praise any one : I only mean that the upper
class and the lower are as bad as one another. My
feelings and my Intelligence are opposed to both,
but my tastes lie more in the direction of the former.
Well, now for the evils of marriage," Orlov went
on, glancing at his watch. '' It's high time for you
to understand that there are no evils in the system
Itself; what is the matter is that you don't know
yourselves what you want from marriage. What is
it you want? In legal and Illegal cohabitation, In
236 The Tales of Chekhov
every sort of union and cohabitation, good or bad,
the underlying reaHty is the same. You ladies live
for that underlying reality alone : for you it's every-
thing; your existence would have no meaning for you
without it. You want nothing but that, and you get
It; but since you've taken to reading novels you are
ashamed of it: you rush from pillar to post, you
recklessly change your men, and to justify this tur-
moil you have begun talking of the evils of marriage.
So long as you can't and won't renounce what under-
lies it all, your chief foe, your devil — so long as
you serve that slavishly, what use is there in discuss-
ing the matter seriously? Everything you may say
to me will be falsity and affectation. I shall not
I went to find out from the hall porter whether the
sledge was at the door, and when I came back I
found it had become a quarrel. As sailors say, a
squall had blown up.
" I see you want to shock me by your cynicism to-
day," said Zinaida Fyodorovna, walking about the
drawing-room in great emotion. " It revolts me to
listen to you. I am pure before God and man, and
have nothing to repent of. I left my husband and
came to you, and am proud of it. I swear, on my
honour, I am proud of It! "
''Well, that's all right, then!"
" If you are a decent, honest man, you, too, ought
to be proud of what I did. It raises you and me
above thousands of people who w^ould like to do as
we have done, but do not venture through cowardice
or petty prudence. But you are not a decent man.
An Anonymous Story 237
You are afraid of freedom, and you mock the
promptings of genuine feeling, from fear that some
ignoramus may suspect you of being sincere. You
are afraid to show me to your friends; there's no
greater infliction for you than to go about with me in
the street. . . . Isn't that true? Why haven't you
introduced me to your father or your cousin all this
time ? Why is it ? No, I am sick of It at last," cried
Zinalda Fyodorovna, stamping. '' I demand what Is
mine by right. You must present me to your father."
" If you want to know him, go and present your-
self. He receives visitors every morning from ten
" How base you are! " said Zinalda Fyodorovna,
wringing her hands In despair. " Even if you are
not sincere, and are not saying what you think, I
might hate you for your cruelty. Oh, how base you
** We keep going round and round and never
reach the real point. The real point is that you
made a mistake, and you won't acknowledge it aloud.
You Imagined that I was a hero, and that I had
some extraordinary Ideas and Ideals, and it has
turned out that I am a most ordinary official, a card-
player, and have no partiality for Ideas of any sort.
I am a worthy representative of the rotten world
from which you have run away because you were re-
volted with Its triviality and emptiness. Recognise
it and be just : don't be indignant with me, but with
yourself, as it is your mistake, and not mine."
" Yes, I admit I was mistaken."
" Well, that's all right, then. We've reached that
238 The Tales of Chekhov
point at last, thank God. Now hear somcthuig
more, if you please : I can't rise to your level — I am
too depraved; you can't descend to my level, either,
for you are too exalted. So there Is only one thing
left to do. . . ."
"What?" Zinaida Fyodorovna asked quickly,
holding her breath and turning suddenly as white as
a sheet of paper.
" To call logic to our aid. . . ."
" Georgy, why are you torturing me?" Zinaida
Fyodorovna said suddenly in Russian In a breaking
voice. "What Is It for? Think of my mis-
ery. . . ."
Orlov, afraid of tears, went quickly into his study,
and I don't know why — whether it was that he
wished to cause her extra pain, or whether he re-
membered It was usually done In such cases — he
locked the door after him. She cried out and ran
after him with a rustle of her skirt.
" What does this mean? " she cried, knocking at
his door. "What . . . what does this mean?"
she repeated in a shrill voice breaking with indigna-
tion. " Ah, so this Is what you do ! Then let me
tell you I hate you, I despise you ! Everything Is
over between us now.''
I heard hysterical weeping mingled with laughter.
Something small In the drawing-room fell off the
table and was broken. Orlov went out Into the hall
by another door, and, looking round him nervously,
he hurriedly put on his great-coat and went out.
Half an hour passed, an hour, and she was still
weeping. I remembered that she had no father or
An Anonymous Story 239
mother, no relations, and here she was living be-
tween a man who hated her and Polya, who robbed
her — and how desolate her life seemed to mc ! I
do not know why, but I went into the drawing-room
to her. Weak and helpless, looking with her lovely
hair like an embodiment of tenderness and grace, she
was in anguish, as though she were ill; she was lying
on a couch, hiding her face, and quivering all over.
''Madam, shouldn't I fetch a doctor?" I asked
" No, there's no need . . . It's nothing," she said,
and she looked at me with her tear-stained eyes. " I
have a little headache. . . . Thank you."
I went out, and in the evening she was writing
letter after letter, and sent me out first to Pekarsky,
then to Gruzin, then to Kukushkin, and finally any-
where I chose, if only I could find Orlov and give
him the letter. Every time I came back with the let-
ter she scolded me, entreated me, thrust money Into
my hand — as though she were In a fever. And all
the night she did not sleep, but sat In the drawing-
room, talking to herself.
Orlov returned to dinner next day, and they were
The first Thu sday afterwards Orlov complained
to his friends of the intolerable life he led; he
smoked a great deal, and said with Irritation:
'* It Is no life at all; It's the rack. Tears, wail-
ing, intellectual conversations, begging for forgive-
ness, again tears and wailing; and the long and the
short of It Is that I have no flat of my own now. I
am wretched, and I make her wretched. Surely I
240 The Tales of Chekhov
haven't to live another month or two like this?
How can I ? But yet I may have to."
" Why don't you speak, then? " said Pekarsky.
" I've tried, but I can't. One can boldly tell the
truth, whatever it may be, to an independent, rational
man; but in this case one has to do with a creature
who has no will, no strength of character, and no
logic. I cannot endure tears; they disarm me.
When she cries, I am ready to swear eternal love and
Pekarsky did not understand; he scratched his
broad forehead in perplexity and said :
" You really had better take another flat for her.
It's so simple ! "
" She wants me, not the flat. But what's the good
of talking?" sighed Orlov. *' I only hear endless
conversations, but no w^ay out of my position. It
certainly is a case of ' being guilty without guilt.'
I don't claim to be a mushroom, but it seems I've got
to go into the basket. The last thing I've ever set
out to be is a hero. I never could endure Turge-
nev's novels; and now, all of a sudden, as though to
spite me, I've heroism forced upon me. I assure
her on my honour that I'm not a hero at all, I adduce
irrefutable proofs of the same, but she doesn't be-
lieve me. Why doesn't she believe me? I suppose
I really must have something of the appearance of a
" You go off on a tour of inspection in the prov-
inces," said Kukushkin, laughing.
" Yes, that's the only thing left for me."
A week after this conversation Orlov announced
An Anonymous Story 241
that he was again ordered to attend the senator, and
the same evening he went off with his portmanteaus
An old man of sixty, in a long fur coat reaching
to the ground, and a beaver cap, was standing at the
^* Is Georgy Ivanitch at home? " he asked.
At first I thought it was one of the moneylenders,
Gruzin's creditors, who sometimes used to come to
Orlov for small payments on account; but when he
came into the hall and flung open his coat, I saw
the thick brows and the characteristically compressed
lips which I knew so well from the photographs, and
two rows of stars on the uniform. I recognised
him: it was Orlov's father, the distinguished states-
I answered that Georgy Ivanitch was not at home.
The old man pursed up his lips tightly and looked
into space, reflecting, showing me his dried-up, tooth-
" I'll leave a note," he said; " show me in."
He left his goloshes in the hall, and, without tak-
ing off his long, heavy fur coat, went into the study.
There he sat down before the table, and, before
taking up the pen, for three minutes he pondered,
shading his eyes with his hand as though from the
sun — exactly as his son did when he was out of
humour. His face was sad, thoughtful, with that
look of resignation which I have only seen on the
faces of the old and religious. I stood behind him,
242 The Tales of Chekhov
gazed at his bald head and at the hollow at the nape
of his neck, and it was clear as daylight to me that
this weak old man was now in my power. There
was not a soul in the flat except my enemy and me.
I had only to use a little physical violence, then
snatch his watch to disguise the object of the crime,
and to get off by the back way, and I should have
gained infinitely more than I could have imagined
possible when I took up the part of a footman. I
thought that I could hardly get a better opportunity.
But instead of acting, I looked quite unconcernedly,
first at his bald patch and then at his fur, and calmly
meditated on this man's relation to his only son, and
on the fact that people spoiled by power and wealth
probably don't want to die. . . .
"Have you been long in my son^s service?" he
asked, writing a large hand on the paper.
" Three months, your High Excellency."
He finished the letter and stood up. I still had
time. I urged myself on and clenched my fists, try-
ing to wring out of my soul some trace of my former
hatred; I recalled what a passionate, implacable, ob-
stinate hate I had felt for him only a little while
before. . . . But it is difficult to strike a match
against a crumbling stone. The sad old face and
the cold glitter of his stars roused in me nothing but
petty, cheap, unnecessary thoughts of the transitori-
ness of everything earthly, of the nearness of
death. . . .
" Good-day, brother," said the old man. He put
on his cap and went out.
Tliere could be no doubt about it: I had undergone
An Anonymous Story 243
a change ; I had become different. To convince my-
self, I began to recall the past, but at once I felt un-
easy, as though I had accidentally peeped into a
dark, damp corner. I remembered my comrades
and friends, and my first thought was how I should
blush in confusion if ever I met any of them. What
was I now? What had I to think of and to do?
Where was I to go? What was I living for?
I could make nothing of it. I only knew one
thing — that I must make haste to pack my things
and be off. Before the old man's visit my position
as a flunkey had a meaning; now it was absurd.
Tears dropped into my open portmanteau; I felt in-
sufferably sad; but how I longed to live! I was
ready to embrace and include in my short life every
possibility open to man. I wanted to speak, to read,
and to hammer in some big factory, and to stand on
watch, and to plough. I yearned for the Nevsky
Prospect, for the sea and the fields — for every place
to which my imagination travelled. When Zinaida
Fyodorovna came in, I rushed to open the door for
her, and with peculiar tenderness took off her fur
coat. The last time !
We had two other visitors that day besides the old
man. In the evening when it was quite dark, Gruzin
came to fetch some papers for Orlov. He opened
the table-drawer, took the necessary papers, and,
rolling them up, told me to put them in the hall be-
side his cap while he went in to see Zinaida Fyodor-
ovna. She was lying on the sofa in the drawing-
room, with her arms behind her head. Five or six
days had already passed since Orlov w^ent on his tour
244 The Tales of Chekhov
of Inspection, and no one knew when he would be
back, but this time she did not send telegrams and
did not expect them. She did not seem to notice the
presence of Polya, who was still living with us.
" So be it, then," was what I read on her passionless
and very pale face. Like Orlov, she wanted to be
unhappy out of obstinacy. To spite herself and
everything in the world, she lay for days together on
the sofa, desiring and expecting nothing but evil for
herself. Probably she was picturing to herself
Orlov's return and the inevitable quarrels with him;
then his growing indifference to her, his infidelities;
then how they would separate; and perhaps these
agonising thoughts gave her satisfaction. But what
would she have said if she found out the actual
" I love you. Godmother," said Gruzin, greeting
her and kissing her hand. '' You are so kind ! And
so dear George has gone away," he lied. " He has
gone away, the rascal! "
He sat down with a sigh and tenderly stroked her
" Let me spend an hour with you, my dear," he
said. '' I don't want to go home, and it's too early
to go to the Birshovs'. The Birshovs are keeping
their Katya's birthday to-day. She is a nice child! "
I brought him a glass of tea and a decanter of
brandy. He slowly and with obvious reluctance
drank the tea, and returning the glass to me, asked
" Can you give me . . . something to eat, my
friend? I have had no dinner."
An Anonymous Story 245
We had nothing in the flat. I went to the restau-
rant and brought him the ordinary rouble dinner.
*' To your health, my dear," he said to Zinaida
Fyodorovna, and he tossed off a glass of vodka.
*' My little girl, your godchild, sends you her love.
Poor child! she's rickety. Ah, children, children! "
he sighed. " Whatever you may say. Godmother,
it is nice to be a father. Dear George can't under-
stand that feeling."
He drank some more. Pale and lean, with his
dinner-napkin over his chest like a little pinafore, he
ate greedily, and raising his eyebrows, kept looking
guiltily, like a little boy, first at Zinaida Fyodorovna
and then at me. It seemed as though he would have
begun crying if I had not given him the grouse or the
jelly. When he had satisfied his hunger he grew
more lively, and began laughingly telling some story
about the Birshov household, but perceiving that it
was tiresome and that Zinaida Fyodorovna was not
laughing, he ceased. And there was a sudden feel-
ing of dreariness. After he had finished his dinner
they sat in the drawing-room by the light of a single
lamp, and did not speak; it was painful to him to lie
to her, and she wanted to ask him something, but
could not make up her mind to. So passed half an
hour. Gruzin glanced at his watch.
" I suppose it's time for me to go."
" No, stay a little. . . . We must have a talk."
Again they were silent. He sat down to the
piano, struck one chord, then began playing, and
sang softly, " What does the coming day bring me? "
but as usual he got up suddenly and tossed his head.
246 The Tales of Chekhov
" Play something," Zinaida Fyodorovna asked
"What shall I play?" he asked, shrugging his
shoulders. " I have forgotten everything. I've
given it up long ago."
Looking at the ceiling as though trying to remem-
ber, he played two pieces of Tchaikovsky with ex-
quisite expression, with such warmth, such insight!
His face was just as usual — neither stupid nor in-
telligent — and it seemed to me a perfect marvel
that a man whom I was accustomed to see in the
midst of the most degrading, impure surroundings,
was capable of such purity, of rising to a feeling so
lofty, so far beyond my reach. Zinaida Fyodor-
ovna's face glowed, and she walked about the draw-
ing-room in emotion.
" Wait a bit, Godmother; if I can remember it, 1
will play you something," he said; " I heard it played
on the violoncello."
Beginning timidly and picking out the notes, and
then gathering confidence, he played Saint-Saens's
" Swan Song." He played it through, and then
played It a second time.
" It's nice, isn't it? " he said.
Moved by the music, Zinaida Fyodorovna stood
beside him and asked:
" Tell me honestly, as a friend, what do you think
about me? "
"What am I to say?" he said, raising his eye-
brows. " I love you and think nothing but good of
you. But If you wish that I should speak generally
about the question that Interests you," he went on,
An Anonymous Story 247
rubbing his sleeve near the elbow and frowning,
" then, my dear, you know. . . . To follow freely
the promptings of the heart does not always give
good people happiness. To feel free and at the
same time to be happy, it seems to me, one must not
conceal from oneself that life is coarse, cruel, and
merciless in its conservatism, and one must retaliate
with what it deserves — that is, be as coarse and as
merciless in one's striving for freedom. That's
what I think."
" That's beyond me," said Zinaida Fyodorovna,
with a mournful smile. '' I am exhausted already.
I am so exhausted that I wouldn't stir a finger for
my own salvation."
" Go into a nunnery."
He said this in jest, but after he had said it, tears
glistened in Zinaida Fyodorovna's eyes and then in
" Well," he said, *' we've been sitting and sitting,
and now we must go. Good-bye, dear Godmother.
God give you health."
He kissed both her hands, and stroking them ten-
derly, said that he should certainly come to see her
again in a day or two. In the hall, as he was put-
ting on his overcoat, that was so like a child's pelisse,
he fumbled long in his pockets to find a tip for me,
but found nothing there.
" Good-bye, my dear fellow," he said sadly, and
I shall never forget the feeling that this man left
Zinaida Fyodorovna still walked about the room
248 The Tales of Chekhov
in her excitement. That she was walkuig about and
not still lying down was so much to the good. I
wanted to take advantage of this mood to speak to
her openly and then to go away, but I had hardly
seen Gruzin out when I heard a ring. It was Ku-
" Is Georgy Ivanltch at home? " he said. *' Has
he come back? You say no? What a pity! In
that case, I'll go in and kiss your mistress's hand,
and so away. Zinaida Fyodorovna, may I come
in? "he cried. " I want to kiss your hand. Excuse
my being so late."
He was not long in the drawing-room, not more
than ten minutes, but I felt as though he were stay-
ing a long while and would never go away. I bit
my lips from indignation and annoyance, and already
hated Zinaida Fyodorovna. " Why does she not
turn him out? " I thought indignantly, though it was
evident that she was bored by his company.
When I held his fur coat for him he asked me, as
a mark of special good-will, how I managed to get
on without a wife.
" But I don't suppose you waste your time,'* he
said, laughingly. " IVe no doubt Polya and you are
as thick as thieves. . . . You rascal ! "
In spite of my experience of life, I knew very little
of mankind at that time, and it is very likely that I
often exaggerated what was of little consequence and
failed to observe what was important. It seemed
to me it was not without motive that Kukushkin tit-
tered and flattered me. Could it be that he was hop-
ing that I, like a flunkey, would gossip in other
An Anonymous Story 249
kitchens and servants' quarters of his coming to see
us in the evenings when Orlov was away, and staying
with Zinaida Fyodorovna till late at night? And
when my tittle-tattle came to the ears of his acquaint-
ance, he would drop his eyes in confusion and shake
his little finger. And would not he, I thought, look-
ing at his little honeyed face, this very evening at
cards pretend and perhaps declare that he had al-
ready won Zinaida Fyodorovna from Orlov?
That hatred which failed me at midday when the
old father had come, took possession of me now.
Kukushkin went away at last, and as I listened to the
shuffle of his leather goloshes, I felt greatly tempted
to fling after him, as a parting shot, some coarse
word of abuse, but I restrained myself. And when
the steps had died away on the stairs, I went back
to the hall, and, hardly conscious of what I was
doing, took up the roll of papers that Gruzin had
left behind, and ran headlong downstairs. With-
out cap or overcoat, I ran down Into the street. It
was not cold, but big flakes of snow were falling and
it was windy.
*^ Your Excellency! " I cried, catching up Kukush-
kin. " Your Excellency! "
He stopped under a lamp-post and looked round
"Your Excellency!" I said breathless, "your
And not able to think of anything to say, I hit
him two or three times on the face with the roll of
paper. Completely at a loss, and hardly wonder-
ing — I had so completely taken him by surprise —
250 The Tales of Chekhov
he leaned his back against the lamp-post and put up
his hands to protect his face. i\t that moment an
army doctor passed, and saw how I w^as beating the
man, but he merely lool<:ed at us in astonishment and
went on. I felt ashamed and I ran back to the house.
With my head wet from the snow, and gasping
for breath, I ran to my room, and immediately flung
off my swallow-tails, put on a reefer jacket and an
overcoat, and carried my portmanteau out Into the
passage; I must get away! But before going I hur-
riedly sat down and began writing to Orlov :
" I leave you my false passport," I began. " I
beg you to keep It as a memento, you false man, you
" To steal Into another man's house under a false
name, to watch under the mask of a flunkey this per-
son's Intimate life, to hear everything, to see every-
thing in order later on, unasked, to accuse a man of
lying — all this, you will say, is on a level with theft.
Yes, but I care nothing for fine feelings now. I have
endured dozens of your dinners and suppers when
you said and did what you liked, and I had to hear,
to look on, and be silent. I don't want to make you
a present of my silence. Besides, if there is not a
living soul at hand who dares to tell you the truth
without flattery, let your flunkey Stepan wash your
magnificent countenance for you."
I did not like this beginning, but I did not care to
alter it. Besides, what did it matter?
An Anonymous Story 251
The big windows with their dark curtains, the bed,
the crumpled dress coat on the floor, and my wet
footprints, looked gloomy and forbidding. And
there was a peculiar stillness.
Possibly because I had run out into the street with-
out my cap and goloshes I was in a high fever. My
face burned, my legs ached. . . . My heavy head
drooped over the table, and there was that kind of
division in my thought when every idea in the brain
seemed dogged by its shadow.
*' I am ill, weak, morally cast down," I went on;
*' I cannot write to you as I should like to. For the
first moment I desired to insult and humiliate you,
but now I do not feel that I have the right to do so.
You and I have both fallen, and neither of us will
ever rise up again; and even if my letter were elo-
quent, terrible, and passionate, it would still seem
like beating on the lid of a coffin: however one
knocks upon it, one will not wake up the dead ! No
efforts could warm your accursed cold blood, and you
know that better than I do. Why write? But my
mind and heart are burning, and I go on writing; for
some reason I am moved as though this letter still
might save you and me. I am so feverish that my
thoughts are disconnected, and my pen scratches the
paper without meaning; but the question I want to
put to you stands before me as clear as though in
letters of flame.
" Why I am prematurely weak and fallen is not
hard to explain. Like Samson of old, I have taken
the gates of Gaza on my shoulders to carry them to
the top of the mountain, and only when I was ex-
2^2 The Tales of Chekhov
hausted, when youth and health were quenched In
me forever, I noticed that that burden was not for
my shoulders, and that I had deceived myself. I
have been, moreover. In cruel and continual pain.
I have endured cold, hunger, illness, and loss of lib-
erty. Of personal happiness I know and have
known nothing. I have no home ; my memories are
bitter, and my conscience is often in dread of them.
But why have you fallen — you? What fatal, dia-
bolical causes hindered your life from blossoming
Into full flower? Why, almost before beginning
life, were you In such haste to cast off the image and
likeness of God, and to become a cowardly beast
who backs and scares others because he Is afraid him-
self? You are afraid of life — as afraid of It as
an Oriental who sits all day on a cushion smoking
his hookah. Yes, you read a great deal, and a Euro-
pean coat fits you well, but yet with what tender,
purely Oriental, pasha-like care you protect yourself
from hunger, cold, physical effort, from pain and
uneasiness ! How early your soul has taken to Its
dressing-gown ! What a cowardly part you have
played towards real life and nature, with which every
healthy and normal man struggles ! How soft, how
snug, how warm, how comfortable — and how bored
you are ! Yes, it is deathly boredom, unrelieved by
one ray of light, as in solitary confinement; but you
try to hide from that enemy, too, you play cards eight
hours out of twenty-four.
"And your Irony? Oh, but how well I under-
stand it! Free, bold, living thought is searching
and dominating; for an Indolent, sluggish mind it Is
An Anonymous Story 253
intolerable. That it may not disturb your peace,
like thousands of your contemporaries, you made
haste in youth to put it under bar and bolt. Your
ironical attitude to life, or whatever you like to call
it, is your armour; and your thought, fettered and
frightened, dare not leap over the fence you have
put round it; and when you jeer at ideas which you
pretend to know all about, you are like the deserter
fleeing from the field of battle, and, to stifle his
shame, sneering at war and at valour. Cynicism
stifles pain. In some novel of Dostoevsky's an old
man tramples underfoot the portrait of his dearly
loved daughter because he had been unjust to her,
and you vent your foul and vulgar jeers upon the
ideas of goodness and truth because you have not
the strength to follow them. You are frightened of
every honest and truthful hint at your degradation,
and you purposely surround yourself with people
who do nothing but flatter your weaknesses. And
you may well, you may well dread the sight of tears !
*' By the way, your attitude to women. Shame-
lessness has been handed down to us in our flesh and
blood, and we are trained to shamelessness; but that
is what we are men for — to subdue the beast in us.
When you reached manhood and all ideas became
known to you, you could not have failed to see the
truth; you knew it, but you did not follow it; you
were afraid of it, and to deceive your conscience you
began loudly assuring yourself that it was not you
but woman that was to blame, that she was as de-
graded as your attitude to her. Your cold, scabrous
anecdotes, your coarse laughter, all your innumer-
254 The Tales of Chekhov
able theories concerning the underlying reality of
marriage and the Indefinite demands made upon it,
concerning the ten sous the French workman pays
his woman; your everlasting attacks on female logic,
lying, weakness and so on — doesn't it all look like
a desire at all costs to force woman down into the
mud that she may be on the same level as your atti-
tude to her? lYou are a weak, unhappy, unpleasant
person ! "
Zinalda Fyodorovna began playing the piano In
the drawing-room, trying to recall the song of Saint-
Saens that Gruzin had played. I went and lay on
my bed, but remembering that it was time for me to
go, I got up with an effort and with a heavy, burning
head went to the table again.
" But this is the question," I went on. " Why
are we worn out? Why are we, at first so passion-
ate, so bold, so noble, and so full of faith, complete
bankrupts at thirty or thirty-five? Why does one
waste in consumption, another put a bullet through
his brains, a third seeks forgetfulness in vodka and
cards, while the fourth tries to stifle his fear and
misery by cynically trampling underfoot the pure
Image of his fair youth? Why is It that, having
once fallen, we do not try to rise up again, and,
losing one thing, do not seek something else? ^hy
" The thief hanging on the Cross could bring back
the joy of life and the courage of confident hope,
though perhaps he had not more than an hour to
live. You have long years before you, and I shall
probably not die so soon as one might suppose.
An Anonymous Story 255
What if by a miracle the present turned out to be a
dream, a horrible nightmare, and we should wake up
renewed, pure, strong, proud of our righteousness?
Sweet visions fire me, and I am almost breathless
with emotion. I have a terrible longing to live. I
long for our life to be holy, lofty, and majestic as the
heavens above. Let us live ! The sun doesn't rise
twice a day, and hfe is not given us again — clutch
at what is left of your life and save it. . . ."
I did not write another word. I had a multitude
of thoughts in my mind, but I could not connect them
and get them on to paper. Without finishing the
letter, I signed it with my name and rank, and went
into the study. It was dark. I felt for the table
and put the letter on it. I must have stumbled
against the furniture in the dark and made a
" Who is there? " I heard an alarmed voice in the
And the clock on the table softly struck one at the
For at least half a minute I fumbled at the door
in the dark, feeling for the handle; then I slowly
opened it and walked into the drawing-room.
Zinaida Fyodorovna was lying on the couch, and
raising herself on her elbow, she looked towards me.
Unable to bring myself to speak, I walked slowly
by, and she followed me with her eyes. I stood for
a little time in the dining-room and then walked by
her again, and she looked at me intently and with
256 The Tales of Chekhov
perplexity, even with alarm. At last I stood still
and said with an effort :
" He is not coming back."
She quickly got on to her feet, and looked at me
" He is not coming back," I repeated, and my
heart beat violently. " He will not come back, for
he has not left Petersburg. He is staying at Pekar-
She understood and believed me — I saw that
from her sudden pallor, and from the way she laid
her arms upon her bosom in terror and entreaty.
In one instant all that had happened of late flashed
through her mind; she reflected, and with pitiless
clarity she saw the whole truth. But at the same
time she remembered that I was a flunkey, a being of
a lower order. ... A casual stranger, with hair
ruflied, with face flushed with fever, perhaps drunk,
in a common overcoat, was coarsely intruding into
her intimate life, and that offended her. She said
to me sternly:
" It's not your business : go away."
*' Oh, believe me! " I cried impetuously, holding
out my hands to her. *' I am not a footman; I am
as free as you."
I mentioned my name, and, speaking very rapidly
that she might not interrupt me or go away, ex-
plained to her who I was and why I was living there.
This new discovery struck her more than the first.
Till then she had hoped that her footman had lied
or made a mistake or been silly, but now after my
confession she had no doubts left. From the expres-
An Anonymous Story 257
sion of her unhappy eyes and face, which suddenly
lost Its softness and beauty and looked old, I saw
that she was insufferably miserable, and that the
conversation would lead to no good; but I went on
" The senator and the tour of inspection were in-
vented to deceive you. In January, just as now,
he did not go away, but stayed at Pekarsky's, and I
saw him every day and took part in the deception.
He was weary of you, he hated your presence here,
he mocked at you. ... If you could have heard
how he and his friends here jeered at you and your
love, you would not have remained here one minute !
Go av/ay from here! Go away."
" Well," she said In a shaking voice, and moved
her hand over her hair. ^' Well, so be it."
Her eyes were full of tears, her lips were quiver-
ing, and her whole face was strikingly pale and dis-
torted with anger. Orlov's coarse, petty lying re-
volted her and seemed to her contemptible, ridicu-
lous : she smiled and I did not like that smile.
'' Well," she repeated, passing her hand over her
hair again, " so be it. He imagines that I shall die
of humiliation, and Instead of that I am . . .
amused by it. There's no need for him to hide."
She walked away from the piano and said, shrugging
her shoulders: "There's no need. ... It would
have been simpler to have It out with me instead of
keeping in hiding In other people's flats. I have
eyes; I saw It myself long ago. ... I was only
waiting for him to come back to have things out once
258 The Tales of Chekhov
Then she sat down on a low chair by the table,
and, leaning her head on the arm of the sofa, wept
bitterly. In the drawing-room there was only one
candle burning in the candelabra, and the chair where
she was sitting was in darkness; but I saw how her
head and shoulders were quivering, and how her
hair, escaping from her combs, covered her neck, her
face, her arms. . . . Her quiet, steady weeping,
which was not hysterical but a woman's ordinary
weeping, expressed a sense of Insult, of wounded
pride, of injury, and of something helpless, hopeless,
which one could not set right and to which one could
not get used. Her tears stirred an echo in my
troubled and suffering heart; I forgot my Illness and
everything else In the world; I walked about the
drawing-room and muttered distractedly:
^' Is this life? . . . Oh, one can't go on living like
this, one can't. . . . Oh, it's madness, wickedness,
" What humiliation! " she said through her tears.
*' To live together, to smile at me at the very time
when I was burdensome to him, ridiculous In his
eyes! Oh, how humiliating! "
She lifted up her head, and looking at me with
tear-stained eyes through her hair, wet with her
tears, and pushing it back as it prevented her seeing
me, she asked:
" They laughed at me? "
" To these men you were laughable — you and
your love and Turgenev; they said your head was
full of him. And if we both die at once in despair,
that will amuse them, too; they will make a funny
An Anonymous Story 259
anecdote of It and tell it at your requiem service.
But why talk of them? " I said Impatiently. *' We
must get away from here — I cannot stay here one
She began crying again, while I walked to the
piano and sat down.
^* What are we waiting for? " I asked dejectedly.
'' It's two o'clock."
*' I am not waiting for anything," she said. " I
am utterly lost."
" Why do you talk like that ? W^e had better con-
sider together what we are to do. Neither you nor
I can stay here. Where do you Intend to go? "
Suddenly there was a ring at the bell. My heart
stood still. Could It be Orlov, to whom perhaps
Kukushkin had complained of me? How should
we meet? I went to open the door. It was Polya.
She came In shaking the snow off her pelisse, and
went Into her room without saying a word to me.
When I went back to the drawing-room, ZInaida
Fyodorovna, pale as death, was standing in the mid-
dle of the room, looking towards me with big eyes.
" Who was It? " she asked softly.
" Polya," I answered.
She passed her hand over her hair and closed her
" I will go away at once," she said. *' Will you
be kind and take me to the Petersburg Side ? What
time is It now? "
" A quarter to three."
26o The Tales of Chekhov
When, a little afterwards, we went out of the
house, It was dark and deserted in the street. Wet
snow was falling and a damp wind lashed in one's
face. I remember It was the beginning of March;
a thaw had set In, and for some days past the
cabmen had been driving on wheels. Under the
Impression of the back stairs, of the cold, of the mid-
night darkness, and the porter In his sheepskin who
had questioned us before letting us out of the gate,
ZInalda Fyodorovna was utterly cast down and dis-
pirited. When we got Into the cab and the hood
was put up, trembling all over, she began hurriedly
saying how grateful she was to me.
" I do not doubt your good-will, but I am ashamed
that you should be troubled," she muttered. " Oh,
I understand, I understand. . . . When Gruzin was
here to-day, I felt that he was lying and concealing
something. Well, so be it. But I am ashamed,
anyway, that you should be troubled."
She still had her doubts. To dispel them finally,
I asked the cabman to drive through Sergievsky
Street; stopping him at Pekarsky's door, I got out
of the cab and rang. When the porter came to the
door, I asked aloud, that ZInalda Fyodorovna
might hear, whether Georgy Ivanitch was at home.
" Yes," was the answer, " he came In half an hour
ago. He must be In bed by now. What do you
ZInalda Fyodorovna could not refrain from put-
ting her head out.
An Anonymous Story 261
*' Has Georgy Ivanitch been staying here long? "
*' Going on for three weeks."
^' And he's not been away? "
*' No," answered the porter, looking at me with
" Tell him, early to-morrow," I said, " that his
sister has arrived from Warsaw. Good-bye."
[Then we drove on. The cab had no apron, the
snow fell on us in big flakes, and the wind, especially
on the Neva, pierced us through and through. I
began to feel as though we had been driving for
a long time, that for ages we had been suffering,
and that for ages I had been listening to Zinaida
Fyodorovna's shuddering breath. In semi-delirium,
as though half asleep, I looked back upon my
strange, incoherent life, and for some reason re-
called a melodrama, '* The Parisian Beggars," which
I had seen once or twice in my childhood. And
when to shake off that semi-delirium I peeped out
from the hood and saw the dawn, all the images of
the past, all my misty thoughts, for some reason,
blended in me into one distinct, overpowering
thought: everything was irrevocably over for Zinaida
Fyodorovna and for me. This was as certain a con-
viction as though the cold blue sky contained a
prophecy, but a minute later I was already thinking
of something else and believed differently.
''What am I now?" said Zinaida Fyodorovna,
in a voice husky with the cold and the damp.
'' Where am I to go? What am I to do? Gruzin
told me to go into a nunnery. Oh, I would! I
262 The Tales of Chekhov
would change my dress, my face, my name, my
thoughts . . . everything — everything, and would
hide myself for ever. But they will not take me
into a nunnery. I am with child."
" We will go abroad together to-morrow," I
" That's impossible. My husband won't give me
'' I will take you without a, passport."
The cabman stopped at a wooden house of two
storeys, painted a dark colour. I rang. Taking
from me her small light basket — the only luggage
we had brought with us — Zinaida Fyodorovna gave
a wry smile and said:
" These are my bijoux/'
But she was so weak that she could not carry these
It was a long while before the door was opened.
After the third or fourth ring a light gleamed in
the windows, and there was a sound of steps, cough-
ing and whispering; at last the key grated in the lock,
and a stout peasant woman with a frightened red
face appeared at the door. Some distance behind
her stood a thin little old woman with short grey
hair, carrying a candle in her hand. Zinaida Fyodo-
rovna ran into the passage and flung her arms round
the old woman's neck.
" Nina, I've been deceived," she sobbed loudly.
** I've been coarsely, foully deceived! Nina,
I handed the basket to the peasant woman. The
An Anonymous Story 263
door was closed, but still I heard her sobs and the
cry '' Nina ! ''
I got into the cab and told the man to drive
slowly to the Nevsky Prospect. I had to think of a
night's lodging for myself.
Next day towards evening I went to see Zinaida
Fyodorovna. She was terribly changed. There
were no traces of tears on her pale, terribly sunken
face, and her expression was different. I don't
know whether it was that I saw her now in different
surroundings, far from luxurious, and that our rela-
tions were by now different, or perhaps that intense
grief had already set its mark upon her; she did not
strike me as so elegant and well dressed as before.
Her figure seemed smaller; there was an abruptness
and excessive nervousness about her as though she
were in a hurry, and there was not the same softness
even in her smile. I was dressed in an expensive suit
which I had bought during the day. She looked first
of all at that suit and at the hat in my hand, then
turned an impatient, searching glance upon my face
as though studying it.
" Your transformation still seems to me a sort
of miracle," she said. *^ Forgive me for looking at
you with such curiosity. You are an extraordinary
man, you know."
I told her again who I was, and why I was living
at Orlov's, and I told her at greater length and in
more detail than the day before. She listened with
great attention, and said without letting me finish:
" Everything there is over for me. You know,
264 The Tales of Chekhov
I could not refrain from writing a letter. Here is
On the sheet which she gave there was written in
" I am not going to justify myself. But you
must own that it was your mistake, not mine. I wish
you happiness, and beg you to make haste and for-
get. Yours sincerely,
" G. O.
" P. S. — I am sending on your things."
The trunks and baskets despatched by Orlov were
standing in the passage, and my poor little portman-
teau was there beside them,
"So . . ." Zinaida Fyodorovna began, but she
did not finish.
We were silent. She took the note and held it
for a couple of minutes before her eyes, and during
that time her face wore the same haughty, con-
temptuous, proud, and harsh expression as the day
before at the beginning of our explanation; tears
came into her eyes — not timid, bitter tears, but
proud, angry tears.
" Listen," she said, getting up abruptly and mov-
ing away to the window that I might not see her face.
" I have made up my mind to go abroad with you to-
" I am very glad. I am ready to go to-day."
" Accept me as a recruit. Have you read Bal-
zac?" she asked suddenly, turning round. "Have
you? At the end of his novel ' Pere Goriot ' the
hero looks down upon Paris from the top of a hill
An Anonymous Story 265
and threatens the town: ' Now we shall settle our
account,' and after this he begins a new life. So
when I look out of the train window at Petersburg
for the last time, I shall say, ' Now we shall settle
our account! ' "
Saying this, she smiled at her jest, and for some
reason shuddered all over.
At Venice I had an attack of pleurisy. Probably
I had caught cold in the evening when we were
rowing from the station to the Hotel Bauer. I had
to take to my bed and stay there for a fortnight.
Every morning while I was ill Zinaida Fyodorovna
came from her room to drink coffee with me, and
afterwards read aloud to me French and Russian
books, of which we had bought a number at Vienna.
These books were either long, long familiar to me or
else had no Interest for me, but I had the sound of a
sweet, kind voice beside me, so that the meaning of
all of them was summed up for me in the one thing
— I was not alone. She would go out for a walk,
come back in her light grey dress, her light straw hat,
gay, warmed by the spring sun; and sitting by my
bed, bending low down over me, would tell me some-
thing about Venice or read me those books — and I
At night I was cold, ill, and dreary, but by day
I revelled in life — I can find no better expression
for it. The brilliant warm sunshine beating In at
the open windows and at the door upon the bal-
266 The Tales of Chekhov
cony, the shouts below, the splash of oars, the tinkle
of bells, the prolonged boom of the cannon at mid-
day, and the feeling of perfect, perfect freedom,
did wonders with me; I felt as though I were grow-
ing strong, broad wings which were bearing me God
knows whither. And what charm, what joy at times
at the thought that another life was so close to mine !
that I was the servant, the guardian, the friend, the
indispensable fellow-traveller of a creature, young,
beautiful, wealthy, but weak, lonely, and Insulted!
It is pleasant even to be 111 when you know that there
are people who are looking forward to your convales-
cence as to a holiday. One day I heard her whisper-
ing behind the door with my doctor, and then she
came In to me with tear-stained eyes. It was a bad
sign, but I was touched, and there was a wonderful
lightness In my heart.
But at last they allowed me to go out on the bal-
cony. The sunshine and the breeze from the sea
caressed and fondled my sick body. I looked down
at the familiar gondolas, which glide with feminine
grace smoothly and majestically as though they were
alive, and felt all the luxury of this original, fascinat-
ing civilisation. There was a smell of the sea.
Some one was playing a stringed Instrument and two
voices were singing. How delightful it was ! How
unlike it was to that Petersburg night when the wet
snow was falling and beating so rudely on our faces.
If one looks straight across the canal, one sees the
sea, and on the wide expanse towards the horizon the
sun glittered on the water so dazzlingly that It hurt
one's eyes to look at It. My soul yearned tov/ards
An Anonymous Story 267
that lovely sea, which was so akin to me and to which
I had given up my youth. I longed to live — to live
— and nothing more.
A fortnight later I began walking freely. I loved
to sit in the sun, and to listen to the gondoliers with-
out understanding them, and for hours together to
gaze at the little house where, they said, Desdemona
lived — a naive, mournful little house with a demure
expression, as light as lace, so light that it looked as
though one could lift it from its place with one hand.
I stood for a long time by the tomb of Canova, and
could not take my eyes off the melancholy lion. And
in the Palace of the Doges I was always drawn to
the corner where the portrait of the unhappy Marino
Faliero was painted over with black. " It Is fine to
be an artist, a poet, a dramatist," I thought, " but
since that is not vouchsafed to me, if only I could go
in for mysticism! If only I had a grain of some
faith to add to the unruffled peace and serenity that
fills the soul!"
In the evening we ate oysters, drank wine, and
went out in a gondola. I remember our black gon-
dola swayed softly in the same place while the water
faintly gurgled under it. Here and there the reflec-
tion of the stars and the lights on the bank quivered
and trembled. Not far from us in a gondola, hung
with coloured lanterns which were reflected in the
water, there were people singing. The sounds of
guitars, of violins, of mandolins, of men's and
women's voices, were audible in the dark. Zinalda
Fyodorovna, pale, with a grave, almost stern face,
was sitting beside me, compressing her lips and
268 The Tales of Chekhov
clenching her hands. She was thinking about some-
thing; she did not stir an eyelash, nor hear me. Her
face, her attitude, and her fixed, expressionless gaze,
and her incredibly miserable, dreadful, and icy-cold
memories, and around her the gondolas, the lights,
the music, the song with its vigorous passionate cry
of '' Jam-7no/ Jam-mo/'' — what contrasts in life!
When she sat like that, with tightly clasped hands,
stony, mournful, I used to feel as though we were
both characters in some novel in the old-fashioned
style called "The Ill-fated," "The Abandoned,"
or something of the sort. Both of us: she — the
ill-fated, the abandoned; and I — the faithful, de-
voted friend, the dreamer, and, if you like it, a super-
fluous man, a failure capable of nothing but coughing
and dreaming, and perhaps sacrificing myself. . . .
But who and what needed my sacrifices now? And
what had I to sacrifice, indeed?
When we came in in the evening we always drank
tea in her room and talked. We did not shrink
from touching on old, unhealed w^ounds — on the
contrary, for some reason I felt a positive pleasure
in teUing her about my life at Orlov's, or referring
openly to relations which I knew and which could not
have been concealed from me.
" At moments I hated you," I said to her.
" When he was capricious, condescending, told you
lies, I marvelled how it was you did not see, did not
understand, when it was all so clear ! You kissed his
hands, you knelt to him, you flattered him. . . ."
" When I . . . kissed his hands and knelt to him,
I loved him . . ." she said, blushing crimson.
An Anonymous Story 269
" Can it have been so difficult to see through him?
A fine sphinx ! A sphinx indeed — a kammer-
junkerf I reproach you for nothing, God forbid,"
I went on, feehng I was coarse, that I had not the
tact, the dehcacy which are so essential when you
have to do with a fellow-creature's soul; in early
days before I knew her I had not noticed this defect
in myself. " But how could you fail to see what he
was, " I went on, speaking more softly and more
*' You mean to say you despise my past, and you
are right," she said, deeply stirred. " You belong
to a special class of men who cannot be judged by
ordinary standards; your moral requirements are ex-
ceptionally rigorous, and I understand you can't for-
give things. I understand you, and if sometimes I
say the opposite, it doesn't mean that I look at things
differently from you; I speak the same old nonsense
simply because I haven't had time yet to wear out my
old clothes and prejudices. I, too, hate and despise
my past, and Orlov and my love. . . . What was
that love? It's positively absurd now," she said,
going to the window and looking down at the canal.
" All this love only clouds the conscience and con-
fuses the mind. The meaning of life is to be found
only in one thing — fighting. To get one's heel on
the vile head of the serpent and to crush it! That's
the meaning of life. In that alone or in nothing."
I told her long stories of my past, and described
my really astounding adventures. But of the change
that had taken place in me I did not say one word.
She always listened to me with great attention, and at
270 The Tales of Chekhov
Interesting places she rubbed her hands as though
vexed that it had not yet been her lot to experience
such adventures, such joys and terrors. Then she
would suddenly fall to musing and retreat into her-
self, and I could see from her face that she was not
attending to me.
I closed the windows that looked out on the canal
and asked whether we should not have the lire
" No, never mind. I am not cold," she said, smil-
ing listlessly. " I only feel weak. Do you know, I
fancy I have grown much wiser lately. I have
extraordinary, original ideas now. When I think of
my past, of my life then . . . people in general, in
fact, It Is all summed up for me in the image of my
stepmother. Coarse, insolent, soulless, false, de-
praved, and a morphia maniac too. My father,
who was feeble and weak-willed, married my mother
for her money and drove her into consumption; but
his second wife, my stepmother, he loved passion-
ately, insanely. . . . What I had to put up with!
But what Is the use of talking! And so, as I say, it
is all summed up in her image. . . . And it vexes me
that my stepmother Is dead. I should like to meet
her now! "
" I don't know," she answered with a laugh and a
graceful movement of her head. " Good-night.
You must get well. As soon as you are well, we'll
take up our work. . . . It's time to begin."
After I had said good-night and had my hand on
the door-handle, she said:
An Anonymous Story 271
"What do you think? Is Polya still living
And I went off to my room. So we spent a whole
month. One grey morning when we both stood at
my window, looking at the clouds which were moving
up from the sea, and at the darkening canal, expect-
ing every minute that it would pour with rain, and
when a thick, narrow streak of rain covered the sea
as though with a muslin veil, we both felt suddenly
dreary. The same day we both set off for Florence.
It was autumn, at Nice. One morning when I
went into her room she was sitting on a low chair,
bent together and huddled up, with her legs crossed
and her face hidden in her hands. She was weeping
bitterly, with sobs, and her long, unbrushed hair fell
on her knees. The impression of the exquisite
marvellous sea which I had only just seen and of
which I wanted to tell her, left me all at once, and my
'' What is it? " I asked; she took one hand from
her face and motioned me to go away. " What is
it?" I repeated, and for the first time during our
acquaintance I kissed her hand.
" No, it's nothing, nothing," she said quickly.
" Oh, it's nothing, nothing. ... Go away. . . .
You see, I am not dressed."
I went out overwhelmed. The calm and serene
mood in which I had been for so long was poisoned
272 The Tales of Chekhov
by compassion. I had a passionate longing to fall
at her feet, to entreat her not to weep in solitude, but
to share her grief with me, and the monotonous mur-
mur of the sea already sounded a gloomy prophecy
in my ears, and I foresaw fresh tears, fresh troubles,
and fresh losses in the future. " What is she crying
about? What is it?" I wondered, recalling her
face and her agonised look. I remembered she was
with child. She tried to conceal her condition from
other people, and also from herself. At home she
went about in a loose wrapper or in a blouse with ex-
tremely full folds over the bosom, and when she
went out anywhere she laced herself in so tightly
that on two occasions she fainted when we were out.
She never spoke to me of her condition, and when I
hinted that it might be as well to see a doctor, she
flushed crimson and said not a word.
When I went to see her next time she was already
dressed and had her hair done.
" There, there," I said, seeing that she was ready
to cry again. *' We had better go to the sea and
have a talk."
*' I can't talk. Forgive me, I am in the mood
now when one wants to be alone. And, if you
please, Vladimir Ivanitch, another time you want
to come into my room, be so good as to give a knock
at the door."
That " be so good " had a peculiar, unfeminine
sound. I w^ent away. My accursed Petersburg
mood came back, and all my dreams were crushed
and crumpled up like leaves by the heat. I felt I
was alone again and there was no nearness between
An Anonymous Story 273
us. I was no more to her than that cobweb to that
palm-tree, which hangs on it by chance and which
will be torn off and carried away by the wind. I
walked about the square where the band was playing,
went into the Casino; there I looked at overdressed
and heavily perfumed women, and every one of them
glanced at me as though she would say: " You are
alone; that's all right." Then I went out on the ter-
race and looked for a long time at the sea. There
was not one sail on the horizon. On the left bank,
in the lilac-coloured mist, there were mountains, gar-
dens, towers, and houses, the sun was sparkling over
it all, but it was all alien, indifferent, an incompre-
She used as before to come into my room in the
morning to coffee, but we no longer dined together,
as she said she was not hungry; and she lived only on
coffee, tea, and various trifles such as oranges and
And we no longer had conversations in the eve-
ning. I don't know why it was like this. Ever
since the day when I had found her in tears she had
treated me somehow lightly, at times casually, even
ironically, and for some reason called me " My good
sir." What had before seemed to her terrible,
heroic, marvellous, and had stirred her envy and en-
thusiasm, did not touch her now at all, and usually
after listening to me, she stretched and said :
'' Yes, * great things were done in days of yore,'
my good sir."
274 The Tales of Chekhov
It sometimes happened even that I did not see
her for days together. I would knock timidly and
guiltily at her door and get no answer; I would
knock again — still silence. ... I would stand near
the door and listen; then the chambermaid would
pass and say coldly, ^^ Madame est partieJ' Then I
would walk about the passages of the hotel, walk and
walk. . . . English people, full-bosomed ladies,
waiters in swallow-tails. . . . And as I keep gazing
at the long striped rug that stretches the whole length
of the corridor, the idea occurs to me that I am play-
ing in the life of this woman a strange, probably false
part, and that it is beyond my power to alter that
part. I run to my room and fall on my bed, and
think and think, and can come to no conclusion; and
all that is clear to me is that I want to live, and that
the plainer and the colder and the harder her face
grows, the nearer she is to me, and the more in-
tensely and painfully I feel our kinship. Never
mind '' My good sir," never mind her light careless
tone, never mind anything you like, only don't leave
me, my treasure. I am afraid to be alone.
Then I go out into the corridor again, listen in a
tremor. ... I have no dinner; I don't notice the
approach of evening. At last about eleven I hear
the familiar footstep, and at the turn near the stairs
Zinaida Fyodorovna comes into sight.
*' Are you taking a walk? " she would ask as she
passes me. *' You had better go out into the
air. . . . Good-night! "
*^ But shall we not meet again to-day? "
*' I think it's late. But as you like."
Ah Anonymous Story 275'
*' Tell me, where have you been? " I would ask,
following her into the room.
''Where? To Monte Carlo." She took ten
gold coins out of her pocket and said: "Look,
my good sir; I have won. That's at roulette."
'' Nonsense ! As though you would gamble."
'' Why not? I am going again to-morrow."
I imagined her with a sick and morbid face, in
her condition, tightly laced, standing near the
gaming-table in a crowd of cocottes, of old women
in their dotage who swarm round the gold like flies
round the honey. I remembered she had gone off
to Monte Carlo for some reason in secret from
" I don't believe you," I said one day. " You
wouldn't go there."
"' Don't agitate yourself. I can't lose much."
" It's not the question of what you lose," I said
with annoyance. " Has it never occurred to you
while you were playing there that the glitter of gold,
all these women, young and old, the croupiers, all the
surroundings — that it is all a vile, loathsome mock-
ery at the toiler's labour, at his bloody sweat? "
" If one doesn't play, what is one to do here? "
she asked. " The toiler's labour and his bloody
sweat — all that eloquence you can put off till an-
other time ; but now, since you have begun, let me go
on. Let me ask you bluntly, what is there for me to
do here, and what am I to do? "
''What are you to do?" I said, shrugging my
shoulders. " That's a question that can't be an-
swered straight off,"
276 The Tales of Chekhov
" I beg you to answer me honestly, Vladimir Ivan-
itch," she said, and her face looked angry. " Once
I have brought myself to ask you this question, I am
not going to listen to stock phrases. I am asking
you," she went on, beating her hand on the table, as
though marking time, "what ought I to do here?
And not only here at Nice, but in general? "
I did not speak, but looked out of window to the
sea. My heart was beating terribly.
" Vladimir Ivanltch," she said softly and breath-
lessly; it was hard for her to speak — "Vladimir
Ivanltch, If you do not believe in the cause yourself,
if you no longer think of going back to It, why . . .
why did you drag me out of Petersburg? Why did
you make me promises, why did you rouse mad
hopes? Your convictions have changed; you have
become a different man, and nobody blames you for
it — our convictions are not always in our power.
But . . . but, Vladimir Ivanltch, for God's sake,
why are you not sincere? " she went on softly, com-
ing up to me. " All these months when I have been
dreaming aloud, raving, going Into raptures over my
plans, remodelling my life on a new pattern, why
didn't you tell me the truth? Why were you silent
or encouraged me by your stories, and behaved as
though you were in complete sympathy with me?
Why was it? Why was it necessary? "
" It's difficult to acknowledge one's bankruptcy,"
I said, turning round, but not looking at her. " Yes,
I have no faith; I am worn out. I have lost
heart. ... It is difficult to be truthful — very diffi-
cult, and I held my tongue. God forbid that any one
An Anonymous Story 277
should have to go through what I have been
I felt that I was on the point of tears, and ceased
" Vladimir Ivanitch," she said, and took me by
both hands, " you have been through so much and
seen so much of life, you know more than I do ; think
seriously, and tell me, what am I to do ? Teach me !
If you haven't the strength to go forward yourself
and take others with you, at least show me where to
go. After all, I am a living, feeling, thinking being.
To sink into a false position ... to play an absurd
part ... is painful to me. I don't reproach you, I
don't blame you ; I only ask you."
Tea was brought in.
*' Well? " said Zinaida Fyodorovna, giving me a
glass. " What do you say to me ? "
*' There is more light in the world than you see
through your window," I answered. " And there
are other people besides me, Zinaida Fyodorovna."
'* Then tell me who they are," she said eagerly.
"That's all I ask of you."
" And I want to say, too," I went on, " one can
serve an idea in more than one calling. If one has
made a mistake and lost faith in one, one may find
another. The world of ideas is large and cannot be
" The world of ideas! " she said, and she looked
into my face sarcastically. '' Then we had better
leave off talking. What's the use? . . ."
" The world of ideas ! " she repeated. She threw
278 The Tales of Chekhov
her dinner-napkin aside, and an expression of indig-
nation and contempt came into her face. " All your
fine ideas, I see, lead up to one inevitable, essential
step : I ought to become your mistress. That's
what's wanted. To be taken up with ideas without
being the mistress of an honourable, progressive
man, is as good as not understanding the ideas.
One has to begin with that . . . that is, with being
your mistress, and the rest will come of itself."
" You are irritated, Zinaida Fyodorovna," I said.
"No, I am sincere! " she cried, breathing hard.
" I am sincere ! "
" You are sincere, perhaps, but you are in error,
and it hurts me to hear you."
" I am in error? " she laughed. " Any one else
might say that, but not you, my dear sir! I may
seem to you indelicate, cruel, but I don't care: you
love me? You love me, don't you? "
I shrugged my shoulders.
" Yes, shrug your shoulders! " she went on sar-
castically. " When you were ill I heard you in your
delirium, and ever since these adoring eyes, these
sighs, and edifying conversations about friendship,
about spiritual kinship. . . . But the point is, why
haven't you been sincere? Why have you concealed
what is and talked about what isn't? Had you said
from the beginning what ideas exactly led you to
drag me from Petersburg, I should have known. I
should have poisoned myself then as I meant to, and
there would have been none of this tedious
farce. . . . But what's the use of talking! "
With a wave of the hand she sat down.
An Anonymous Story 279
" You speak to me as though you suspected me of
dishonourable intentions/' I said, offended.
*' Oh, very well. What's the use of talking! I
don't suspect you of intentions, but of having no in-
tentions. If you had any, I should have known them
by now. You had nothing but ideas and love. For
the present — ideas and love, and in prospect — me
as your mistress. That's in the order of things both
in life and in novels. . . . Here you abused him,"
she said, and she slapped the table with her hand,
*' but one can't help agreeing with him. He has
good reasons for despising these ideas."
"He does not despise ideas; he Is afraid of
them," I cried. " He is a coward and a liar."
" Oh, very well. He is a coward and a liar, and
deceived me. And you? Excuse my frankness;
what are you? He deceived me and left me to take
my chance in Petersburg, and you have deceived me
and abandoned me here. But he did not mix up
ideas with his deceit, and you . . ."
" For goodness' sake, why are you saying this? "
T cried in horror, wringing my hands and going up
to her quickly. " No, Zinalda Fyodorovna, this is
cynicism. You must not be so despairing; listen to
me," I went on, catching at a thought which flashed
dimly upon me, and which seemed to me might still
save us both. " Listen. I have passed through so
many experiences in my time that my head goes
round at the thought of them, and I have realised
with my mind, with my racked soul, that man finds
Ills true destiny In nothing if not In self-sacrlficint;
love for his neighbour. It is towards that we must
28o The Tales of Chekhov
strive, and that is our destination! That is my
I wanted to go on to speak of mercy, of forgive-
ness, but there was an insincere note in my voice, and
I was embarrassed.
" I want to live ! " I said genuinely. '' Xo live, to
live! I want peace, tranquillity; I want warmth —
this sea here — to have you near. Oh, how I wish
I could rouse in you the same thirst for life ! You
spoke just now of love, but it would be enough for
me to have you near, to hear your voice, to watch
the look In your face . . . ! "
She flushed crimson, and to hinder my speaking,
said quickly :
" You love life, and I hate it. So our ways lie
She poured herself out some tea, but did not touch
It, went into the bedroom, and lay down.
" I Imagine it Is better to cut short this conversa-
tion," she said to me from within. " Everything is
over for me, and I want nothing. . . . What more
is there to say? "
''No, it's not all over! "
"Oh, very well! ... I know! I am sick of
It. . . . That's enough."
I got up, took a turn from one end of the room
to the other, and went out into the corridor. When
late at night I went to her door and listened, I dis-
tinctly heard her crying.
Next morning the waiter, handing me my clothes,
Informed me, with a smile, that the lady in number
thirteen was confined. I dressed somehow, and al-
An Anonymous Story 281
most fainting with terror ran to Zinaida Fyodorovna.
In her room I found a doctor, a midwife, and an eld-
erly Russian lady from Harkov, called Darya Mil-
hailovna. There was a smell of ether. I had
scarcely crossed the threshold when from the room
where she was lying I heard a low, plaintive moan,
and, as though it had been wafted me by the wind
from Russia, I thought of Orlov, his irony, Polya,
the Neva, the drifting snow, then the cab without an
apron, the prediction I had read in the cold morning
sky, and the despairing cry " Nina ! Nina ! "
** Go in to her," said the lady.
I went in to see Zinaida Fyodorovna, feeling as
though I were the father of the child. She was
lying with her eyes closed, looking thin and pale,
wearing a white cap edged with lace. I remember
there were two expressions on her face : one —
cold. Indifferent, apathetic; the other — a look of
childish helplessness given her by the white cap.
She did not hear me come In, or heard, perhaps,
but did not pay attention. I stood, looked at her,
But her face was contorted with pain; she opened
her eyes and gazed at the ceiling, as though wonder-
ing what was happening to her. . . . There was a
look of loathing on her face.
" It's horrible . . ." she whispered.
** Zinaida Fyodorovna." I spoke her name
softly. She looked at me Indifferently, listlessly, and
closed her eyes. I stood there a little while, then
At night, Darya Mlhailovna Informed me that
282 The Tales of Chekhov
the child, a girl, was born, but that the mother was in
a dangerous condition. Then I heard noise and
bustle in the passage. Darya Mihailovna came to
me again and with a face of despair, wringing her
" Oh, this is awful ! The doctor suspects that she
has taken poison! Oh, how badly Russians do be-
have here ! "
And at twelve o'clock the next day Zinaida Fyodo-
Two years had passed. Circumstances had
changed; I had come to Petersburg again and could
live here openly. I was no longer afraid of being
and seeming sentimental, and gave myself up entirely
to the fatherly, or rather idolatrous feeling roused
in me by Sonya, Zinaida Fyodorovna's child. I fed
her with my own hands, gave her her bath, put her
to bed, never took my eyes off her for nights together,
and screamed when it seemed to me that the nurse
was just going to drop her. My thirst for normal
ordinary life became stronger and more acute as
time went on, but wider visions stopped short at
Sonya, as though I had found in her at last just what
I needed. I loved the child madly. In her I saw
che continuation of my life, and it was not exactly
that I fancied, but I felt, I almost believed, that when
I had cast off at last my long, bony, bearded frame,
I should go on living in those little blue eyes, that
silky flaxen hair, those dimpled pink hands which
An Anonymous Story 283
stroked my face so lovingly and were clasped round
Sonya's future made me anxious. Orlov was her
father; In her birth certificate she was called Kras-
novsky, and the only person who knew of her ex-
istence, and took interest in her — that is, I — was
at death's door. I had to think about her seriously.
The day after I arrived in Petersburg I went to
see Orlov. The door was opened to me by a stout
old fellow with red whiskers and no moustache, who
looked like a German. Polya, who was tidying the
drawing-room, did not recognise me, but Orlov knew
me at once.
" Ah, Mr. Revolutionist ! " he said, looking at me
with curiosity, and laughing. " What fate has
brought you? "
He was not changed in the least: the same well-
groomed, unpleasant face, the same irony. And a
new book was lying on the table just as of old, with
an ivory paper-knife thrust In it. He had evidently
been reading before I came in. He made me sit
down, offered me a cigar, and with a delicacy only
found in well-bred people, concealing the unpleasant
feeling aroused by my face and my wasted figure, ob-
served casually that I was not in the least changed,
and that he would have known me anywhere In spite
of my having grown a beard. We talked of the
weather, of Paris. To dispose as quickly as possible
of the oppressive, inevitable question, which weighed
upon him and me, he asked:
** Zinaida Fyodorovna is dead?"
284 The Tales of Chekhov
" Yes," I answered.
" Yes, in childbirth. The doctor suspected an-
other cause of death, but ... it is more comforting
for you and for me to think that she died in child-
He sighed decorously and was silent. The angel
of silence passed over us, as they say.
" Yes. And here everything is as it used to be
— no changes," he said briskly, seeing that I was
looking about the room. " My father, as you know,
has left the service and is living in retirement; I am
still in the same department. Do you remember
Pekarsky? He is just the same as ever. Gruzin
died of diphtheria a year ago. . . . Kukushkin is
alive, and often speaks of you. By the way," said
Orlov, dropping his eyes with an air of reserve,
*' when Kukushkin heard who you were, he began
telling every one you had attacked him and tried to
murder him . . . and that he only just escaped with
I did not speak.
" Old servants do not forget their masters. . . .
It's very nice of you," said Orlov jocosely. " Will
you have some wine and some coffee, though? I
will tell them to make some."
" No, thank you. I have come to see you about
a very important matter, Georgy Ivanitch."
*' I am not very fond of important matters, but I
shall be glad to be of service to you. What do you
*' You see," I began, growing agitated, " I have
An Anonymous Story 285"
here with me ZInalda Fyodorovna's daughter. . . .
Hitherto I have brought her up, but, as you see, be-
fore many days I shall be an empty sound. I should
like to die with the thought that she is provided for."
Orlov coloured a little, frowned a little, and took
a cursory and sullen glance at me. He was unpleas-
antly affected, not so much by the " important mat-
ter " as by my words about death, about becoming an
" Yes, it must be thought about," he said, screen-
ing his eyes as though from the sun. " Thank you.
You say it's a girl? "
" Yes, a girl. A wonderful child! "
" Yes. Of course, it's not a lap-dog, but a human
being. I understand we must consider it seriously.
I am prepared to do my part, and am very grateful
He got up, walked about, biting his nails, and
stopped before a picture.
^' We must think about it," he said in a hollow
voice, standing with his back to me. '' I shall go to
Pekarsky's to-day and will ask him to go to Kras-
novsky's. I don't think he will make much ado
about consenting to take the child."
*' But, excuse me, I don't see what Krasnovsky
has got to do with it," I said, also getting up and
walking to a picture at the other end of the room.
" But she bears his name, of course ! " said Orlov.
" Yes, he may be legally obliged to accept the child
- — I don't know; but I came to you, Georgy Ivan-
itch, not to discuss the legal aspect."
'* Yes, yes, you are right," he agreed briskly. " I
286 The Tales of Chekhov
believe I am talking nonsense. But don't excite
yourself. We will decide the matter to our mutual
satisfaction. If one thing won't do, we'll try an-
other; and if that won't do, we'll try a third — one
way or another this delicate question shall be settled.
Pekarsky will arrange it all. Be so good as to leave
me your address and I will let you know at once what
we decide. Where are you living? "
Orlov wrote down my address, sighed, and said
with a smile :
" Oh, Lord, what a job it is to be the father of a
little daughter ! But Pekarsky will arrange It all.
He is a sensible man. Did you stay long In Paris? "
" Two months."
We were silent. Orlov was evidently afraid I
should begin talking of the child again, and to turn
my attention in another direction, said:
" You have probably forgotten your letter by now.
But I have kept it. I understand your mood at the
time, and, I must own, I respect that letter. ' Damn-
able cold blood,' ' Asiatic,' ' coarse laugh ' — that
was charming and characteristic," he went on with an
ironical smile. " And the fundamental thought Is
perhaps near the truth, though one might dispute the
question endlessly. That is," he hesitated, " not dis-
pute the thought Itself, but your attitude to the ques-
tion — your temperament, so to say. Yes, my life Is
abnormal, corrupted, of no use to any one, and what
prevents me from beginning a new life is cowardice
— there you are quite right. But that you take it so
much to heart, are troubled, and reduced to despair
by it — that's irrational; there you are quite wrong."
An Anonymous Story 287
" A living man cannot help being troubled and re-
duced to despair when he sees that he himself is go-
ing to ruin and others are going to ruin round him."
'' Who doubts it ! I am not advocating indiffer-
ence; all I ask for is an objective attitude to life.
The more objective, the less danger of falling into
error. One must look into the root of things, and
try to see in every phenomenon a cause of all the
other causes. We have grown feeble, slack — de-
graded, in fact. Our generation is entirely com-
posed of neurasthenics and whimperers; we do noth-
ing but talk of fatigue and exhaustion. But the fault
is neither yours nor mine; we are of too little conse-
quence to affect the destiny of a whole generation.
We must suppose for that larger, more general
causes with a solid raison d'etre from the biological
point of view. We are neurasthenics, flabby, rene-
gades, but perhaps it's necessary and of service for
generations that will come after us. Not one hair
falls from the head without the will of the Heavenly
Father — in other words, nothing happens by chance
in Nature and in human environment. Everything
has its cause and is inevitable. And if so, why
should we worry and write despairing letters? "
*' That's all very well," I said, thinking a little.
*' I believe it will be easier and clearer for the genera-
tions to come; our experience will be at their service.
But one wants to live apart from future generations
and not only for their sake. Life is only given us
once, and one wants to live it boldly, wnth full con-
sciousness and beauty. One wants to play a striking,
independent, noble part; one wants to make history
288 The Tales of Chekhov
so that those generations may not have the right to
say of each of us that we were nonentities or
worse. ... I believe what is going on about us is
Inevitable and not without a purpose, but what have
I to do with that inevitability? Why should my ego
" Well, there's no help for it," sighed Orlov, get-
ting up and, as it were, giving me to understand that
our conversation was over.
I took my hat.
" WeVe only been sitting here half an hour, and
how many questions we have settled, when you come
to think of it! " said Orlov, seeing me into the hall.
" So I will see to that matter. ... I will see Pekar-
sky to-day. . . . Don't be uneasy."
He stood waiting while I put on my coat, and was
obviously relieved at the feeling that I was going
" Georgy Ivanltch, give me back my letter," I
He went to his study, and a minute later returned
with the letter. I thanked him and went away.
The next day I got a letter from him. He con-
gratulated me on the satisfactory settlement of the
question. Pekarsky knew a lady, he wrote, who
kept a school, something like a kindergarten, where
she took quite little children. The lady could be en-
tirely depended upon, but before concluding anything
with her it would be as well to discuss the matter with
Krasnovsky — It was a matter of form. He ad-
vised m^ to see Pekarsky at once and to take the birth
An Anonymous Story 289
certificate with me, if I had it. " Rest assured of the
sincere respect and devotion of your humble serv-
ant. . . ."
I read this letter, and Sonya sat on the table and
gazed at me attentively without blinking, as though
she knew her fate was being decided.
In the course of the manoeuvres the N cavalry
regiment halted for a night at the district town of
K . Such an event as the visit of officers always
has the most exciting and inspiring effect on the in-
habitants of provinicial towns. The shopkeepers
dream of getting rid of the rusty sausages and " best
brand " sardines that have been lying for ten years
on their shelves; the inns and restaurants keep open
all night; the Military Commandant, his secretary,
and the local garrison put on their best uniforms; the
police flit to and fro like mad, while the effect on the
ladies is beyond all description.
The ladles of K , hearing the regiment ap-
proaching, forsook their pans of boiling jam and ran
into the street. Forgetting their morning deshabille
and general untidiness, they rushed breathless with
excitement to meet the regiment, and listened
greedily to the band playing the march. Looking
at their pale, ecstatic faces, one might have thought
those strains came from some heavenly choir rather
than from a military brass band.
*' The regiment!" they cried joyfully. *' The
regiment is coming! "
What could this unknown regiment that came by
chance to-day and would depart at dawn to-morrow
mean to them?
296 The Tales of Chekhov
with dancing and there was nowhere he could play a
game of cards; secondly, because he could not en-
dure the sound of wind instruments; and, thirdly, be-
cause he fancied the officers treated the civilians
somewhat too casually and disdainfully. But what
above everything revolted him and moved him to in-
dignation was the expression of happiness on his
" It makes me sick to look at her ! " he muttered.
" Going on for forty, and nothing to boast of at any
time, and she must powder her face and lace herself
up! And frizzing her hair! Flirting and making
faces, and fancying she's doing the thing in style !
Ugh! you're a pretty figure, upon my soul! "
Anna Pavlovna was so lost In the dance that she
did not once glance at her husband.
" Of course not ! Where do we poor country
bumpkins come In ! " sneered the tax-collector.
*' We are at a discount now. . . . We're clumsy
seals, unpolished provincial bears, and she's the
queen of the ball ! She has kept enough of her looks
to please even officers. . . . They'd not object to
making love to her, I dare say! "
During the mazurka the tax-collector's face
twitched with spite. A black-haired officer with
prominent eyes and Tartar cheekbones danced the
mazurka with Anna Pavlovna. Assuming a stern
expression, he worked his legs with gravity and feel-
ing, and so crooked his knees that he looked like a
jack-a-dandy pulled by strings, while Anna Pavlovna,
pale and thrilled, bending her figure languidly and
turning her eyes up, tried to look as though she
The Husband 297
scarcely touched the floor, and evidently felt herself
that she was not on earth, not at the local club, but
somewhere far, far away — in the clouds. Not only
her face but her whole figure was expressive of
beatitude. . . . The tax-collector could endure it no
longer; he felt a desire to jeer at that beatitude, to
make Anna Pavlovna feel that she had forgotten her-
self, that life was by no means so delightful as she
fancied now in her excitement. . . .
" You wait; I'll teach you to smile so blissfully,"
he muttered. " You are not a boarding-school miss,
you are not a girl. An old fright ought to realise
she is a fright ! "
Petty feelings of envy, vexation, wounded vanity,
of that small, provincial misanthropy engendered in
petty officials by vodka and a sedentary life, swarmed
in his heart like mice. Waiting for the end of the
mazurka, he went into the hall and walked up to his
wife. Anna Pavlovna was sitting with her partner,
and, flirting her fan and coquettishly dropping her
eyelids, was describing how she used to dance in
Petersburg (her lips were pursed up like a rosebud,
and she pronounced " at home In Piitiirsburg ") .
*' Anyuta, let us go home," croaked the tax-col-
Seeing her husband standing before her, Anna
Pavlovna started as though recalling the fact that
she had a husband; then she flushed all over: she felt
ashamed that she had such a sickly-looking, ill-
humoured, ordinary husband.
*' Let us go home," repeated the tax-collector.
*'Why? It's quite early!"
296 The Tales of Chekhov
with dancing and there was nowhere he could play a
game of cards; secondly, because he could not en-
dure the sound of wind instruments; and, thirdly, be-
cause he fancied the officers treated the civilians
somewhat too casually and disdainfully. But what
above everything revolted him and moved him to in-
dignation was the expression of happiness on his
*' It makes me sick to look at her ! " he muttered.
" Going on for forty, and nothing to boast of at any
time, and she must powder her face and lace herself
up ! And frizzing her hair ! Flirting and making
faces, and fancying she's doing the thing in style !
Ugh! you're a pretty figure, upon my soul! "
Anna Pavlovna was so lost In the dance that she
did not once glance at her husband.
"Of course not! Where do we poor country
bumpkins come In ! " sneered the tax-collector.
*' We are at a discount now. . . . We're clumsy
seals, unpolished provincial bears, and she's the
queen of the ball ! She has kept enough of her looks
to please even officers. . . . They'd not object to
making love to her, I dare say ! "
During the mazurka the tax-collector's face
twitched with spite. A black-haired officer with
prominent eyes and Tartar cheekbones danced the
mazurka with Anna Pavlovna. Assuming a stern
expression, he worked his legs with gravity and feel-
ing, and so crooked his knees that he looked like a
jack-a-dandy pulled by strings, while Anna Pavlovna,
pale and thrilled, bending her figure languidly and
turning her eyes up, tried to look as though she
The Husband 297
scarcely touched the floor, and evidently felt herself
that she was not on earth, not at the local club, but
somewhere far, far away — in the clouds. Not only
her face but her whole figure was expressive of
beatitude, . . . The tax-collector could endure it no
longer; he felt a desire to jeer at that beatitude, to
make Anna Pavlovna feel that she had forgotten her-
self, that life was by no means so delightful as she
fancied now in her excitement. . . .
" You wait; I'll teach you to smile so blissfully,"
he muttered. '' You are not a boarding-school miss,
you are not a girl. An old fright ought to realise
she is a fright ! "
Petty feelings of envy, vexation, wounded vanity,
of that small, provincial misanthropy engendered in
petty officials by vodka and a sedentary life, swarmed
in his heart like mice. Waiting for the end of the
mazurka, he went into the hall and walked up to his
wife. Anna Pavlovna was sitting with her partner,
and, flirting her fan and coquettlshly dropping her
eyelids, was describing how she used to dance in
Petersburg (her lips were pursed up like a rosebud,
and she pronounced " at home in Piitiirsburg ") .
" Anyuta, let us go home,'' croaked the tax-col-
Seeing her husband standing before her, Anna
Pavlovna started as though recalling the fact that
she had a husband; then she flushed all over: she felt
ashamed that she had such a sickly-looking, ill-
humoured, ordinary husband.
" Let us go home," repeated the tax-collector.
*'Why? It's quite early!"
298 The Tales of Chekhov
" I beg you to come home ! " said the tax-collector
deliberately, with a spiteful expression.
"Why? Has anything happened?" Anna Pav-
lovna asked in a flutter.
" Nothing has happened, but I wish you to go
home at once. ... I wish it; that's enough, and
without further talk, please."
Anna Pavlovna was not afraid of her husband, but
she felt ashamed on account of her partner, who was
looking at her husband with surprise and amuse-
ment. She got up and moved a little apart with her
"What notion is this?" she began. "Why go
home? Why, it's not eleven o'clock."
" I wish it, and that's enough. Come along, and
that's all about it."
"Don't be silly! Go home alone if you want
" All right; then I shall make a scene."
The tax-collector saw the look of beatitude gradu-
ally vanish from his wife's face, saw how ashamed
and miserable she was — and he felt a little happier.
" Why do you want me at once ? " asked his wife. ,
" I don't want you, but I wish you to be at home.
I wish it, that's all."
At first Anna Pavlovna refused to hear of it, then
she began entreating her husband to let her stay just
another half-hour; then, without knowing why, she
began to apologise, to protest — and all in a whisper,
with a smile, that the spectators might not suspect
that she was having a tiff with her husband. She
began assuring him she would not stay long, only an-
The Husband 299
other ten minutes, only five minutes; but the tax-col-
lector stuck obstinately to his point.
" Stay If you like," he said, *' but I'll make a scene
if you do."
And as she talked to her husband Anna Pavlovna
looked thinner, older, plainer. Pale, biting her lips,
and almost crying, she went out to the entry and be-
gan putting on her things.
''You are not going?" asked the ladles in sur-
prise. " Anna Pavlovna, you are not going, dear? "
" Her head aches," said the tax-collector for his
Coming out of the club, the husband and wife
walked all the way home in silence. The tax-col-
lector walked behind his wife, and watching her
downcast, sorrowful, humiliated little figure, he re-
called the look of beatitude which had so irritated
him at the club, and the consciousness that the beati-
tude was gone filled his soul with triumph. He was
pleased and satisfied, and at the same time he felt the
lack of something; he would have liked to go back to
the club and make every one feel dreary and miser-
able, so that all might know how stale and worthless
life is when you walk along the streets In the dark
and hear the slush of the mud under your feet, and
when you know that you will wake up next morning
with nothing to look forward to but vodka and cards.
Oh, how awful It is !
And Anna Pavlovna could scarcely walk. . . .
She was still under the Influence of the dancing, the
music, the talk, the lights, and the noise; she asked
herself as she walked along why God had thus
300 The Tales of Chekhov
afflicted her. She felt miserable, Insulted, and
choking with hate as she listened to her husband's
heavy footsteps. She was silent, trying to think of
the most offensive, biting, and venomous word she
could hurl at her husband, and at the same time she
was fully aware that no word could penetrate her tax-
collector's hide. What did he care for words?
Her bitterest enemy could not have contrived for her
a more helpless position.
And meanwhile the band was playing and the
darkness was full of the most rousing, intoxicating
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